Health Care

Week ahead: Drug pricing back in focus

Lawmakers from both parties are trying to make clear they’re serious about fair drug pricing, a topic likely to dominate healthcare headlines in the coming week.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging, led by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday featuring the CEO of embattled drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

{mosads}The executive, Michael Pearson, is slated to make his long-awaited appearance about two weeks after standing up the committee and violating a subpoena. His absence had Collins and McCaskill threatening to hold him in contempt, though they said he later reversed course and agreed to testify.

Valeant has drawn scorn for its drug pricing strategy, which critics liken to price-gouging. The company, along with Turing Pharmaceuticals, drew widespread public scorn after word spread about its practice of buying the rights to decades-old drugs and then quickly raising prices.

Beyond Capitol Hill, a pair of influential policy groups plan to hold events on drug pricing.

On Monday, the Campaign for Responsible Drug Pricing is scheduled to unveil a slate of “market-based policy solutions” that it says will help control price increases.

Its event, at the Newseum, is slated to feature leaders from across the healthcare sector: the American Hospital Association, AARP, American College of Physicians and Kaiser Permanente will be represented.

On Tuesday, the liberal think tank Center for American Progress plans to also hold a drug pricing summit, featuring Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) and representatives from AARP, Quest Diagnostics and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Marilyn Tavenner, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, is scheduled to speak. The summit will be moderated by Dr. Zeke Emanuel, an influential voice in the first drafts of the Affordable Care Act.

Many of the groups speaking out this week are major players in the drug pricing debate, from insurers to doctors. But so far, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America remains absent.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled to take up a package of bipartisan bills to fight opioid abuse. GOP leaders are hoping to bring those bills – mostly noncontroversial – to the floor the first week of May.

The House’s package would then be combined with a Senate’s, which passed in March. Neither would provide new funding to fight the epidemic, though they would redirect existing funds.

Working toward another bipartisanship initiative, the Senate Finance Committee is hoping to move forward on reforming the mental healthcare system and has planned a hearing on Thursday.

The Senate GOP is also trying to advance a Zika funding package, which could be attached to an appropriations bill on the floor in the coming week. Lawmakers in charge of the emergency package have declined to say how much money it is scheduled to include, but it is sure to fall short of President Obama’s $2 billion request.


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Tags Claire McCaskill Susan Collins

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