Senate Judiciary Committee plans markup of drug pricing bill this month

Senate Judiciary Committee plans markup of drug pricing bill this month
© Getty

The Senate Judiciary Committee is planning a markup of legislation to lower drug prices this month, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTwo-thirds of Republicans support 'red flag' gun laws: NPR poll Red flag laws won't stop mass shootings — ending gun-free zones will Pelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid MORE (R-S.C.), the panel’s chairman, told The Hill on Wednesday.

The action from the Judiciary Committee is a sign of the movement on the issue of drug pricing in both parties, which could provide Congress with a rare bipartisan achievement this year. The Senate Finance Committee is also moving forward with drug pricing legislation this month or next.

Graham said Wednesday that a bill from Sens. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Democrats keen to take on Cornyn despite formidable challenges The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape MORE (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) to crack down on drug companies gaming the patent system to extend their monopolies would be included in the markup.

The pharmaceutical industry is opposed to that legislation and has been lobbying to at least win changes to the measure to ease the blow on the industry, lobbyists say.

We've already heard from some of the pharma folks who want us to leave this alone,” Cornyn, who is up for reelection next year, told The Hill last week.  

But Cornyn said drug prices need to come down. “We ought to bring the prices down and trying to keep people from gaming the patent system is one way, I think, to do it,” he said.

Graham said that the bills in the Judiciary Committee could be combined with health care measures in other committees to go to the full Senate. “A lot of cats and dogs, ideas out there,” Graham said.

The Cornyn-Blumenthal measure is a relatively rare bill from a powerful Republican lawmaker that drug companies are fighting.

The bill would empower the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on drug companies creating "thickets" of multiple patents on one drug in a bid to delay competition. 

Tom Wilbur, a spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the bill “as introduced would fundamentally upend the biopharmaceutical innovation ecosystem” by cracking down on innovations companies continue to make even after the drug is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We are committed to working with Senators on both sides of the aisle to ensure legislation doesn’t hurt innovation and addresses potential outlier behavior,” Wilbur said.