Legislation To Control Drug Prices Advances From Committee To Full Senate

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in late July voted unanimously to advance four pieces of legislation aimed at reining in prescription drug prices. The legislation, which would enhance the Federal Trade Commission’s ability to initiate enforcement actions against drug companies, now moves to the Senate floor for a vote.

  • * The Stop STALLING Act would give the FTC authority to take action against companies that file sham petitions with the FDA to delay market entry for generics and biosimilars.
  • * The Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act would limit “pay-for-delay” deals in which companies compensate generic manufacturers to delay the entrance of their products into the market. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., explained that the bill still would allow companies to pursue agreements but would narrowly target the type of settlement agreements that raise serious competitive concerns.
  • * The Prescription Pricing for the People Act calls on the FTC to examine the pharmaceutical supply chain and determine whether pharmacy benefit managers are engaged in anti-competitive behavior.
  • * The Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act would curb drug companies’ abuse of patents through “product hopping,” in which companies extend exclusivity by switching patients to a tweaked version of a drug while an older version succumbs to generics.

Proponents said the bills target tactics used by drug companies to extend patent protections and stifle competition from less-expensive generic and biosimilar drugs. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who co-sponsored the legislation, specifically mentioned Humira from AbbVie. The drug has 130 patents, 90% of which were obtained after its initial approval, he said.

Eliot Fishman, director of health policy at Families USA, a consumer health care advocacy organization pushing for drug price reforms, lauded the initiative.

“Effective prescription drug reform needs to get prices down and also close off dysfunctional incentives that suppress innovation,” he said. “The Judiciary Committee took a major step to the second part of this agenda. We are optimistic that both Medicare prescription drug negotiation and reforms to patent, pay for delay and PBM abuses will become law in this Congress.”

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. cautioned against lumping all pharmaceutical companies together.

“I agree with the general proposition across these four bills,” he said. “But I also am concerned that we continue to protect the patent system itself. Overly aggressive use of the tools created in this legislation could sweep up good actors as well as bad actors and could have unintended negative consequences.”


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