Update on Legislative Drug Pricing Efforts

Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) is pessimistic that the Senate will pass legislation to lower drug prices before the end of the year. Thune told reporters last week that it may be possible to include drug pricing measures in an end-of-the-year government funding package but that it would be very difficult. The Senate does not yet have the 60 votes necessary to advance the Senate Finance Committee’s bipartisan drug pricing package, according to Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley is still working with Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in hopes of releasing an updated version of the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (S. 2543) in the coming weeks. The House plans to vote on Democratic leadership’s Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3), when lawmakers return to Washington from Thanksgiving recess in December. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed to block the bill in the Senate.

The House Judiciary Committee advanced two bipartisan pieces of drug pricing legislation last week. The Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Promoting Competition Act (H.R. 5133) would provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with the authority to stop “product hopping” by brand manufacturers. The Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Improvements to Patent Litigation Act (H.R. 3991) attempts to clarify the patent litigation process for biosimilar manufacturers. Each measure was approved by voice vote. The bills are considered companion legislation to a bill introduced in the Senate by John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). A vote on the Senate bill is currently being blocked by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who wishes to address a broader drug pricing package before consideration of incremental solutions.

Staff for the House Energy and Commerce Committee are in the process of making changes to the STOP GAMES Act (H.R. 2387), which would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reject citizen petitions made with the intent of delaying generic competition from coming to the market. The bill was advanced by the panel’s Health Subcommittee earlier this month, alongside the legislation that was marked up by the full committee last week. The measure was held from the full committee markup for revisions. Some Republican members of the panel expressed concerns that the bill could hinder the use of legitimate citizen petitions.

In a tweet on Friday, President Trump stated that he and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar would soon be releasing a plan to allow Florida and other states to import prescription drugs from abroad. A final regulation to allow states to import certain treatments from Canada has been under review at the OMB since November 1.

Lawmakers Push for Inclusion of Surprise Billing in End-of-the-Year Package

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that congressional leadership is still working to reconcile the differences between competing bills to address the issue of surprise insurance gaps. House Ways and Means Committee leadership suggest that they have a bipartisan outline and continue to work out the details of a proposal for consideration by the full committee. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) also stated that "intense meetings" are taking place between staff for the House Energy and Commerce and the Senate HELP committees to reach an agreement on how to resolve billing disputes that arise between providers and payers. Supporters of the legislation hope to include it in an end-of-the-year government funding package.

Carolyn Maloney to Serve as Oversight Chair

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) was elected as the new Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, following the passing of former Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on October 17. She will be the first woman to lead the powerful committee that is currently at the forefront of several investigations into the Trump administration. She has been serving as acting chair since last month and was backed by the Democratic Steering Committee by a vote of 35-17 over Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) before being selected for the position by the full Democratic caucus.

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