Graham: Doing nothing on drug prices 'unacceptable'

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

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage Hillicon Valley: Amazon's Alabama union fight — take two 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 TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death 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 ErnstSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Swalwell slams House Republican for touting funding in bill she voted down Alabama GOP gears up for fierce Senate primary clash 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 CornynSenate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Senators introduce bill aimed at protecting Ukrainian civilians Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine 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 DurbinDick DurbinEffort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Manchin, Collins leading talks on overhauling election law, protecting election officials 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 KennedyLouisiana Democrat running for US Senate smokes marijuana in campaign ad MORE (R-La.).

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