Graham: Doing nothing on drug prices 'unacceptable'

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

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senator blocks Armenian genocide resolution Hannity slams Stern for Clinton interview: 'Not the guy I grew up listening to' The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment 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 TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments 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 ErnstGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Democratic challenger to Joni Ernst releases ad depicting her as firing gun at him Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members 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 CornynGiffords, Demand Justice to pressure GOP senators to reject Trump judicial pick Push to investigate Bidens sets up potential for Senate turf war Pressure grows on House GOP leaders to hold line ahead of impeachment trial 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 DurbinSupreme Court poised to hear first major gun case in a decade Protecting the future of student data privacy: The time to act is now Overnight Health Care: Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills | CDC confirms 47 vaping-related deaths | Massachusetts passes flavored tobacco, vaping products ban 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.