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Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Hearing Looks at Promoting Competition to Lower Medicare Drug Prices

Yesterday, the House Ways and Means (W&M) Health Subcommittee held a hearing, “Promoting Competition to Lower Medicare Drug Prices,” to examine how competition would help reduce the cost of drugs in Medicare. The hearing continues the inquiry into pharmaceutical pricing begun by a full W&M Committee hearing last month.

The high cost of prescription drug prices is a priority of the new Congress, with Democrats and Republicans, as well as the Trump administration, all proposing solutions, such as permitting prescription drug importation from Canada, further Medicare Part D negotiations, setting international reference pricing, and reducing barriers to competition.

In his opening remarks, Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) noted that Thursday’s hearing would “have a special focus on the role that competition can play in bringing down soaring prices and on the multiple barriers, deliberately constructed by the industry, to prevent competition from working effectively.” One such barrier, he said, are the so-called pay-for-delay settlements, in which brand-name and generic manufacturers agree to anticompetitive deals that keep competition off the market. Chairman Doggett has introduced legislation, H.R. 1344, the Competitive DRUGS Act, to prohibit these deals and impose tax penalties on companies that engage in this behavior.

Five witnesses, representing advocacy groups as well as medical and law schools, testified before the committee, offering ideas on how Congress could lower drug prices without stifling innovation, including  limiting the number of patents one drug could receive. Also discussed was allowing the government to negotiate directly in Medicare Part D, replacing the current system of negotiations by private insurance companies who administer the program. Republicans were critical of this Democratic proposal.

For more information about the hearing, including witness testimony and video coverage, visit the W&M Health Subcommittee website.

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