In the Second of a Series of Aging Committee Hearings This Week on Drug Pricing
Washington, D.C.—In the second hearing this week on the soaring cost of prescription drugs, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Aging Committee, continued their bipartisan effort to untangle the complex web of prescription drug pricing and find solutions for patients and their families.
Today’s hearing examined policies that can help make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable. Four expert witnesses with backgrounds in consumer advocacy, health policy, and academia provided their perspectives on ways to increase transparency and bring costs down. Yesterday, the Aging Committee heard from five patients about the struggles they endure to be able to afford the medications they need.
“High drug prices and cost increases that dominate our headlines and devastate our bottom lines are unsustainable,” said Senator Collins. “Yesterday, we heard painful, personal stories from patients who struggle to obtain the medications they need at prices they can afford. While we have taken steps to address this serious issue, much more remains to be done. Today’s hearing examined ways to further empower consumers, improve transparency, and fundamentally change the incentives in our broken system.”
“Yesterday, we heard stories from Americans throughout the country who are struggling to afford life-sustaining medications. No one should have to skip doses or go into debt because of their prescriptions,” said Senator Casey. “Congress must pass common sense legislation to reduce prescription drug prices. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Prescription Drug Pricing Dashboard Act with Chairman Collins and the Medicare Extra Rx HELP Act to help give Americans financial relief.”
Those testifying at today’s hearing included:
- Lisa Gill, Deputy Editor, Special Projects, Consumer Reports—Ms. Gill testified about factors that make it extremely hard for patients to know what drugs will cost them and tools that can help consumers. Consumer Reports conducted an investigation last year on the variation in retail cash prices for five common prescriptions. She also spoke about the importance of the new law to ban pharmacy gag clauses.
- Pooja Babbrah, Practice Lead, Point-of-Care Partners—Ms. Babbrah discussed how government facilitates the sharing of insurance information and how real-time pharmacy benefit check applications are being developed that will provide physicians and consumers with more drug price and benefit design transparency.
- Stacie Dusetzina, PhD, Associate Professor, Health Policy, Vanderbilt University Medical Center—Dr. Dusetzina, spoke about the factors spurring increases in prescription drug costs, particularly for seniors on Medicare. She also offered recommendations to reduce the opacity of the supply chain related to pricing, rebates, and formulary design as well as to enhance existing benefits for the lowest income seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare. Dr. Desetzina’s latest article on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) was published in the Journal of American Medicine this week.
- Jane Horvath, Principal, Horvath Health Policy—Ms. Horvath focused on states’ development and implementation of drug pricing policies concerning state transparency efforts, the complex prescription drug pricing web, and working with stakeholders across the supply chain. She also discussed the importance of better aligning incentives to reduce costs.
Click HERE to read their testimonies.
The Senate Aging Committee has made combating high prescription drug prices a top priority. In hearings last year, the Committee specifically examined the rising costs of drugs to treat diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
In 2015, the Aging Committee launched the Senate’s first bipartisan investigation into the causes, impacts, and potential solutions to the egregious price spikes for certain off-patent drugs. The Committee released a report on its investigation in 2016.
This week, U.S. Senator Susan Collins was joined by a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing the Biologic Patent Transparency Act, legislation that would encourage competition in the prescription drug marketplace and put an end to the harmful patent strategies that block new drugs from coming to market.
Today, Senators Casey and Collins introduced the bipartisan Prescription Drug Pricing Dashboard Act that would guarantee information about drug costs are posted annually by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The Drug Spending Dashboards at CMS are interactive, web-based tools that provide cost and spending information for drugs in the Medicare Part B and D programs as well as Medicaid. By knowing how much Medicare and Medicaid spend on prescription drugs it will be easier to spot trends, identify problems and find solutions.