Senators vow to bring transparency to drug pricing

Senators vow to bring transparency to drug pricing

Two senators from across the aisle are teaming up to improve transparency on drug pricing by requiring manufacturers to better justify cost increases.

“It is an absolutely opaque process,” said Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinTrade wars and the over-valued dollar Overnight Health Care: Senate panel advances drug pricing bill amid GOP blowback | House panel grills Juul executives | Trump gives boost to state drug import plans | Officials say new migrant kids' shelter to remain open but empty Senators vow to bring transparency to drug pricing MORE (D-Wis.) about how the industry selects prices for drugs, during an event titled "Policy Prescriptions: Lowering Drug Prices," hosted by The Hill and sponsored by AARP on Thursday.

“It’s actually been one of my missions to follow the dollar and no one can give me an answer,” Baldwin explained.

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Baldwin and fellow Sen. Mike BraunMichael BraunOvernight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Pair of GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule MORE (R-Ind.), who also spoke at the event, touted legislation they have co-sponsored, the FAIR Drug Pricing Act, to address the issue. The bill would require drug manufacturers to disclose and justify planned drug price increases.

The act passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee last month with bipartisan support.  

Baldwin spoke about the personal impact drug price increases have on Americans. She said one of her constituents found out the cost for her multiple sclerosis medication had ballooned from about $10,000 to $90,000 a year.

“They haven’t improved it or changed its color or its dosage you know this is the same drug as she started taking but it's gone from $10,000 to $90,000,” Baldwin explained.

The senators made clear they believe their legislation is the best path to making drug companies more accountable for price hikes.

Baldwin said the FAIR Drug Pricing Act “holds these companies more accountable than all the other ones that we’re looking at.”  

And Braun at the event praised the bipartisan support for the bill.

“We should all be interested in lowering health care costs,” he said. “You should be for transparency, competition, taking on the industry.”  

But while the bill was approved by the HELP Committee with bipartisan support, there are questions about its prospects. It is unclear when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report MORE (R-Ky.) will schedule a floor vote on the bill.

There is broad support in both chambers and in the White House to pass bipartisan drug pricing legislation this year. President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated MORE and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObjections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated Latest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' MORE (D-Calif.) have both said they are willing to work across the aisle on the issue. But the drug industry is pushing back.

On Wednesday, Trump met with pharmaceutical executives at the White House as the administration reportedly considers an executive order that would cut prices for drugs sold to Medicare and other government programs, according to Reuters.  

In Congress, there are a number of competing plans. House Democrats are planning to unveil their drug pricing bill in September after months of tough negotiations with progressives, who worry it does not go far enough.

Braun said Senate Republican leaders “need to” schedule a floor vote on drug pricing and pledged support for a bill sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the panel, that aims to lower drug prices for seniors enrolled in Medicare.   

While the White House has indicated support, the bill faces criticism from conservatives who worry that its measures are too close to price caps.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote on the Grassley-Wyden bill on Thursday.

Health care will be front and center in the 2020 election and a number of other fights also threaten to distract from drug pricing efforts.

At Thursday's event, Baldwin identified a lawsuit brought by GOP-led states and backed by Trump to end ObamaCare. She called it the “biggest threat” to lowering prices.

“All of our actions on lowering prices could be for naught if the president and his cohort is successful in this lawsuit,” Baldwin said.

The suit is also unpopular with many Republicans who worry it could hurt them in the election.

Braun said he wished the lawsuit would “go away.”