Washington, D.C. — At a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing on the Lower Heath Care Costs Act of 2019, U.S. Senator Susan Collins questioned Elizabeth Mitchell, President and CEO of Pacific Business Group on Health (PBGH), on ways the bill can be used to increase prescription drug price transparency and prevent patent thickets. Ms. Mitchell is a Maine native.
Ms. Mitchell told the Committee about an employee of a large company who recently had a kidney transplant. The employee required a critical medication, which cost the employer approximately $138,000 every two weeks. The employer discovered they could source the drug directly from the manufacturer for approximately $26,000 every two weeks and have the drug administered at the patient’s home—saving the employer millions over the course of the year. The patient also benefitted from waived cost sharing as a result of these significant savings.
“What led to this success story?” Senator Collins asked. “Was it greater transparency? Was someone negotiating for the employer? What produced those kind of results?”
“These cases could not have been addressed without transparent pricing information and only these very large employers can have access to that information often times. We believe that with greater transparency more actors, more employers, [and] more insurers would identify solutions like this,” said Ms. Mitchell.
During the hearing, Senator Collins discussed how the Senate Aging Committee, which she chairs, has held a number of hearings to examine the high price of biologics. The Committee has found that brand name drug manufacturers often create patent thickets, which prevent biosimilars from coming to the market.
“Biologics are one of the categories of drugs that are most expensive,” said Senator Collins. “In fact, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has estimated that if all the biosimilars had been approved by the FDA and actually made it to market in a timely fashion, American consumers would save more than $4.5 billion. Do you support the provisions in our bill that attempt to prevent the gaming of the patent system to delay the advent of biosimilars to the marketplace?”
“Absolutely. We strongly support any of the changes that will enable increased access to biosimilars,” replied Ms. Mitchell.
Over the past year, the HELP Committee has held six hearings regarding rising health care costs in America.
Earlier this year, Senator Collins introduced the Biologic Patent Transparency Act to help block the harmful patent strategies that prevent lower-cost generics from coming to market. In addition, last month Senators Collins, Rick Scott (R-FL), and Cory Gardner (R-CO) introduced the Prescription Drug Price Reporting Act, legislation that would provide much-needed transparency for prescription drug prices. The bill would create a consumer-friendly database of prescription drug prices, which will empower American families to make informed health care choices.
PBGH is a 501c(3) non-profit organization focused on improving health outcomes, experience and affordability for consumers and purchasers across the U.S. As the leader of PBGH, Ms. Mitchell represents 39 of the largest public and private purchasers of health care in the country who collectively purchase $100 billion in health care annually for 15 million employees and their families. Prior to PBGH, Ms. Mitchell led a multitude of health care organizations in Maine, including serving as CEO of the Maine Health Management Coalition and the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement in Portland. She also served in the Maine State Legislature.
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