Graham: Doing nothing on drug prices 'unacceptable'

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

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamWhy Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm 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 TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA 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 ErnstBlack Caucus leader calls Trump's attacks on minority lawmakers 'despicable' Schwarzenegger calls Trump attack on minority lawmakers 'un-American' and 'crude' GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm 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 CornynGOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm GOP struggles to find backup plan for avoiding debt default Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand 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 DurbinProblem Solvers Caucus co-chair calls Trump comments about progressive congresswomen 'totally unacceptable' Trump's tweets unify a fractured Democratic Party Sunday shows - Immigration raids dominate 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.