Graham: Doing nothing on drug prices 'unacceptable'

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

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhite House appoints GOP House members to advise Trump's impeachment team Hypocrisy is the currency of the realm for GOP in the age of Trump Lawmakers push back at Pentagon's possible Africa drawdown 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 TrumpSanders apologizes to Biden for supporter's op-ed Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Trump' if the US doesn't elect progressive Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover up,' 'national disgrace' 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 ErnstJuan Williams: Counting the votes to remove Trump Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate Drug price outrage threatens to be liability for GOP 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 CornynDemocrats worry a speedy impeachment trial will shut out public Sunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Cornyn disputes GAO report on withholding of Ukraine aid: It's 'certainly not a crime' 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 DurbinSunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Durbin says he hopes enough GOP senators know that 'history will find you' Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial 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.