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Utah Life Sciences News & Events

Senate Democrats Renew Plan for Drug Price Controls

July 7, 2022

Senate Democrats have renewed a push for drug pricing reforms, releasing on Wednesday proposed legislation along with a bill summary. The reforms are similar to provisions included in a “Build Back Better” measure which the House passed last November.

Key provisions would authorize Medicare to negotiate prices on insulins as well as the prices of certain costly medications administered in doctors’ offices (Part B) or purchased at the pharmacy (Part D); impose inflation rebates, cap out-of-pocket spending for Medicare beneficiaries as part of a restructuring of Part D benefit design; and improve premium and co-pay assistance for lower-income Medicare beneficiaries. Some exceptions are provided for small biotechnology companies. Practices of pharmacy benefit managers are not addressed.

Following release of the proposal, both BIO and PhRMA released statements opposing the price controls.

“Instead of building and strengthening America’s biotechnology ecosystem…the legislation…would dismantle our innovation engine and our global competitiveness…,” said BIO CEO Dr. Michelle McMurray-Heath.

“The prescription drug bill…also ignores the role of middlemen and insurers in determining patient out-of-pocket costs…, said PhRMA Executive Vice President of Public Affairs Debra DeShong.

Senate Democrats are still trying to reach an agreement on tax increases and climate change provisions (a slimmed down “Build Back Better” package) that would be coupled with the drug pricing plan. They will need the support of all 50 Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W. VA.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), both previous hold-outs on a sweeping bill.

As negotiations continue, the drug pricing piece will be sent to the Senate parliamentarian to determine whether it could be passed using the budget reconciliation process – a procedural tactic that would allow passage of a deal with a simple majority of Senators, thereby avoiding a potential filibuster.

In terms of timing, if a broader agreement can be hammered out, a package could get a vote before the congressional August recess.