Healthcare

Lawmakers discussing potential compromise to revive drug pricing measure

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during her weekly press conference on Thursday, October 28, 2021.
Greg Nash

Democratic lawmakers are discussing a possible compromise on lowering prescription drug prices that could revive the issue after it was left out of President Biden’s social spending framework, sources say.  

Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), who had raised objections to previous versions of the drug pricing measure, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) have made progress towards an agreement on a compromise drug pricing measure, according to Democratic aides and lobbyists. 
 
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is helping build support for the potential compromise, which was first reported by Stat
 
The Senate remains a question, particularly Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who has been one of the main obstacles in that chamber to stronger versions of the drug pricing plan. 
 
A spokesperson for Peters cautioned that he will need the sign-off of all 50 Democratic senators.
 
“Rep. Peters will require the support of 50 Senators before committing to any agreement — that has not yet been achieved,” the spokesperson said. “He remains committed to working in good faith with all of his colleagues in both chambers to pass a bill that will lower drug prices for seniors.”
 
The outlines of the potential agreement are significantly scaled back from what many Democrats and advocates hoped for. 
 
The potential deal would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, but only for a more limited number of drugs than originally proposed. Namely, the proposal would only allow negotiation on older drugs that no longer are on their period of “exclusivity,” when they are protected from competition. 
 
That reflects Peters’s concern that broader drug price negotiation would harm innovation from drug companies by making them more reluctant to develop new treatments. 
 
The proposal would apply to drugs in both Medicare Part B, administered in doctors’ offices, and Part D, given at the pharmacy counter. It would also limit drug price increases to the rate of inflation, a restriction that would apply to people with private insurance as well, and cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors. 
 
The potential agreement could be a way to salvage some action on lowering drug prices, a signature of Democratic campaigns for years. But it would fall short of the stronger proposals earlier put forward by the party. 
 
Some lawmakers pointed to the power of the pharmaceutical industry in succeeding in at least watering down the measure. 
 
Pallone said Thursday morning that if the effort failed, it would be because of drug companies’ “lackeys” in Congress. 
 
On Thursday evening, he sounded a somewhat more optimistic note. “We’re going to get a bill that has negotiated prices, and that’s going to make a difference in terms of people being able to afford their drugs,” he said. 
Tags Frank Pallone Jr. Joe Biden Kyrsten Sinema Nancy Pelosi prescription drug pricing Scott Peters
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