Graham: Doing nothing on drug prices 'unacceptable'

Graham: Doing nothing on drug prices 'unacceptable'
© Stefani Reynolds

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLincoln Project mocks Lindsey Graham's fundraising lag with Sarah McLachlan-themed video The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Republicans lawmakers rebuke Trump on election Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error MORE (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that he expects Congress to take action this year to lower drug prices by cracking down on drug companies that delay the patent system to extend their monopolies.

“I expect us to do something on patents and prescription drugs this year,” Graham said at a Judiciary Committee hearing. “I don’t know where the sweet spot is but doing nothing is unacceptable.”

In what could be a troubling sign for the drug industry, a number of senators from both parties called for action on Tuesday to restrict drug companies from using techniques to keep their prices high by finding ways to extend their monopolies on a drug.

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Lowering drug prices is seen as a rare possible area of bipartisan cooperation in Congress this year, with both Democrats and President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal prosecutor speaks out, says Barr 'has brought shame' on Justice Dept. Former Pence aide: White House staffers discussed Trump refusing to leave office Progressive group buys domain name of Trump's No. 1 Supreme Court pick MORE calling for action on the issue. Republican lawmakers have been the major question mark, but many called for at least some action on Tuesday.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstOn The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami Tillis appears to reinforce question about COVID-19 death toll The power of incumbency: How Trump is using the Oval Office to win reelection MORE (R-Iowa) called it “crap” and “horrible” that a drug company, Allergan, in 2017 tried to shield its patents on a drug by transferring them to a Native American tribe.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami MORE (R-Texas) said it seemed “anti-competitive” that drug companies amass dozens of patents on a single drug as a way to fend off competition, and proposed giving the Federal Trade Commission authority to police the practice.

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Feinstein 'surprised and taken aback' by suggestion she's not up for Supreme Court fight Grand jury charges no officers in Breonna Taylor death MORE (D-Ill.) expressed hope for bipartisan action after listening to his GOP colleagues, saying, “we are dangerously close to building a bipartisan consensus about change.”

Graham, Ernst, Cornyn and Durbin are all up for reelection next year.

Still, lawmakers have not settled on which bills to move forward, and any action on drug prices risks opening up a highly charged debate on how far to go to crack down on pharmaceutical companies.

“I’ve been here 2 1/2 years and all we've done about this is talk,” said Sen. John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (R-La.).

But he said that, eventually, he thinks Congress will act.