Senate Democrats move forward on drug price controls

Democrats filed a proposal for drug price controls with the Senate Parliamentarian on Wednesday, seeking to classify the bill as “budget reconciliation,” so it can pass with a simple majority in the chamber.

The proposal authorizes Medicare to set prices for certain prescription drugs, but the fixed prices would not apply to consumers with private insurance, Reuters reported.

The government could set prices on 20 single supplier drugs on which it spends the most—requiring HHS to set prices, a stipulation intended to force future administrations to apply price controls, The New York Times explained.

Among the drugs that could be affected are Bristol-Myers Squibb’s top-selling cancer drug Revlimid, AbbVie’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira, and Bayer’s blood thinner Xarelto, Reuters said, citing the Kaiser Family Foundation. All three companies are members of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).

BIO, which represents the interests of a large number of pharmaceutical companies as its members, criticized the Senate Democrats’ plan.

“Instead of building and strengthening America’s biotechnology ecosystem, which has proven critical over the last two years in slowing the COVID-19 pandemic and, in doing so, saved American taxpayers roughly one trillion dollars in healthcare costs and tens of millions of lives globally, the legislation released today would dismantle our innovation engine and our global competitiveness, leaving Americans dependent on overseas innovators,” BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath said Wednesday

“The ‘solutions’ put forward today are anything but,” she continued. “They’re not just a step backward—they could propel us light years back into the dark ages of biomedical research.”

According to Dr. McMurry-Heath, “the bill accomplishes all of this destruction without saving patients and seniors a single dollar at the pharmacy counter because it does nothing to hold the greedy insurance middlemen accountable for the true source of inflated drug prices.”

The bill will be paired with a tax and climate spending package that Democrats want to vote on as soon as this month.

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