Blue Dogs Lead Bipartisan Effort to Lower Prescription Drug Costs, Increase Transparency

March 27, 2019 by Dan McCue

The Blue Dog Coalition on Wednesday threw its support behind two bipartisan bills that aim to lower prescription drug costs and increase transparency in the drug pricing system.

The coalition is a House caucus of moderate and fiscally responsible Democrats. The bills they endorsed are the Payment Commission Act and the Bringing Low-cost Options and Competition while Keeping Incentives for New Generics (BLOCKING) Act.

Both pieces of legislation are being marked up by the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week.

“In this era of divided government, the only way we can fully address the issues impacting the American people is to find a bipartisan solution that can be implemented into law,” said Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., the Blue Dog co-chair for policy.

“The rising cost of prescription drugs is forcing hardworking families to choose between life-saving medication and other necessities,” he continued. “Congress must act to bring those prices down and increase transparency surrounding drug pricing. Today, the Blue Dogs have come together to address this problem by supporting bipartisan legislation that does just that.”

The Payment Commission Act provides Congress’ independent advisory bodies, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission, access to certain drug pricing data that will help them formulate recommendations on how to improve the Medicare and Medicaid programs and lower prescription drug prices.

The Act was introduced by O’Halleran and with Representatives Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, R-Ga., Tom Rice, R-S.C., and Jimmy Panetta D-Calif., who believe the legislation will lead to meaningful policy reforms that will ultimately help patients.

Meanwhile, the Bringing Low-cost Options and Competition while Keeping Incentives for New Generics (BLOCKING) Act, introduced by Blue Dog Co-Chair Representative Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Georgia’s Carter, aims to keep drug prices down by increasing competition in the generic drug market.

Currently, drug manufacturers are guaranteed 180 days of market exclusivity when they are the first to file a generic drug application with the FDA.

Intended to reward manufacturers for bringing new low-cost drugs to the market, the current legislative regime includes a flaw that effectively stymies competition.

The 180 days of market exclusivity begin once the first to file manufacturer starts marketing their drug, but even before the first to market begins marketing, all other generic competitors are blocked from coming to market.

This allows manufacturers to “park” the exclusivity before receiving final approval, blocking competition for more than the 180 days intended by the law, the Blue Dog Coalition said.

In these cases, no other generics can come to the market until the first manufacturer receives final approval, begins marketing the drug, and the subsequent 180 days have passed.

The BLOCKING Act would stop such first generic drug “parking” by mandating that if a second generic drug application is blocked from approval solely due to a first generic drug manufacturer parking their exclusivity at the tentative approval stage, the 180 days immediately begins to run, preventing limitless delays.

The legislation mirrors a proposal to “speed development of more affordable generics to spur competition” that was included in the Trump administration’s FY2019 budget proposal.

“Too many patients across this country feel a severe impact from rising drug prices, often on prescriptions they’ve been filling for years,” Representative Schrader said.

“I have long said there is not one silver bullet solution to this crisis, however, we do know that increasing competition on the drug market places a check on manufacturers and keeps costs down,” he continued. “My bill is one such solution that targets and eliminates unnecessary delays in allowing more drugs on the market, ensuring that manufacturers are still incentivized to produce more drugs and that markets continue to see robust competition.”

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