Booker, Sanders propose new federal agency to control drug prices

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Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday introduced a bill that would create a new federal agency focused on controlling the costs of prescription drugs. 

{mosads}The Prescription Drug Affordability and Access Act would form the Bureau of Prescription Drug Affordability and Access. 

The 2020 Democratic hopefuls were joined by fellow White House contender Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as sponsors of the legislation. 

One of the main tenants of the proposal is that if a drug company did not comply with the regulations, it would void exclusivity protections, allowing other companies to produce generic copies of a drug.

The senators noted the legislation is one of the few bills to directly address a drug’s list price, which is the cost before any discounts or rebates and is usually only paid by the uninsured. 

Under the bill, manufacturers planning to bring a new drug to the market would have to submit to the bureau the cost of research and development, the cost of the drug and of comparable medications in other countries and the federal investments that contributed to the drug’s discovery and production.

The Bureau would review that information and other factors to determine an appropriate list price. 

The legislation is one of many ideas and legislation proposed to try to bring down prescription drug prices but is one of the most drastic introduced to date.

There is bipartisan interest in lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and President Trump has made it a signature priority. But while Trump and lawmakers have railed against high drug prices and proposed some steps to address the issue, there have not been any major actions taken to date that have resulted in lower prices.

House Democrats are expected to vote next month on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) signature bill that would let Medicare negotiate drug prices. However, Republican opposition is likely to kill the bill in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not given his support to even a more modest bipartisan drug pricing measure from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Other 2020 candidates have spoken favorably of using so-called march-in rights to break a drug company’s exclusive patent and allow a cheaper version from a competitor if a drug is priced too high. 

The agency is modeled after Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, which reviews whether a medication is overpriced, comparing the cost to similar medicines in other countries. 

Updated at 8:59 a.m.

Tags 2020 Democrats Bernie Sanders Chuck Grassley Cory Booker Donald Trump Drug prices Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Ron Wyden U.S. Senate
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