House leaders make last-minute change on drug pricing after dispute

House Democratic leaders are making a last-minute change to their deal to lower prescription drug prices to resolve a dispute that arose over the wording of the measure, according to a source familiar with the process. 

The compromise follows a meeting Thursday night between Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat GOP senator knocks Biden for 'spreading things that are untrue' in voting rights speech MORE (D-Calif.), Rep. Scott PetersScott H. PetersBiden points to drug prices in call for Senate social spending vote Overnight Health Care — Presented by Emergent Biosolutions — Pfizer, US strike COVID-19 pill deal CBO: Democrats' package saves about 0B on drug prices MORE (D-Calif.) and other lawmakers to resolve the issue as House leaders race to line up the votes for President BidenJoe BidenMacro grid will keep the lights on Pelosi suggests filibuster supporters 'dishonor' MLK's legacy on voting rights Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown MORE's social spending package.

The compromise will add an additional year of exclusivity before Medicare will be able to negotiate prices for certain complex drugs known as biologics, moving the total from 12 years to 13 years. 

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The last-minute dispute arose from how the text of the drug pricing agreement was drafted. The agreement announced earlier this week was to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices after a period of exclusivity: nine years for many drugs and 12 years for more complex biologics. 

This was actually written down in the text with the numbers seven years and 10 years, though, because drafters noted there is a two-year delay for the negotiation process to play out, meaning the numbers seven and 10 in actuality translated to nine and 12. 

Peters and a handful of other moderates wanted the exclusivity period to fully expire before negotiations could begin, the source said, effectively adding another two years, to bring the totals to 11 years and 14 years, depending on the type of drug. 

The compromise will instead add one year only to biologics, bringing the totals to nine years and 13 years. 

The end result is another shift towards the position of Peters and other moderates like Reps. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderHouse passes bill to strengthen shipping supply chain Five takeaways: House passes Biden's sweeping benefits bill House passes giant social policy and climate measure MORE (D-Ore.) and Kathleen RiceKathleen Maura RiceRapper French Montana talks opioid epidemic, immigration on Capitol Hill Five takeaways: House passes Biden's sweeping benefits bill Dems brace for score on massive Biden bill MORE (D-N.Y.), who have raised concerns that drug pricing reform should not harm innovation from pharmaceutical companies. 

Delaying the start of Medicare negotiating drug prices by any amount of time was already a concession to their position. But many drug pricing advocates have still praised the agreement announced earlier this week as a step in the right direction, even if it does not go as far as they would like.