Austin American-Statesman: Doggett seeks to tamp down prescription drug prices
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett filed a bill Thursday that he said would lower rising prescription drug prices by allowing federal health care officials to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, an idea President Donald Trump backed in 2016.
If a company refuses to negotiate “in good faith” at the beginning of each year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could issue a license to another company to produce a generic version at a lower price.
“Our American solution to this American problem is quite simple,” Doggett, D-Austin, said at a Washington, D.C., news conference Thursday. “It is to negotiate and then let competition work.”
Doggett touted the legislation alongside U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and eight other Democratic lawmakers. The bill has 110 House co-sponsors, all Democrats, including one-third of the Democratic freshman class. Brown said he would file an identical bill in the Senate.
Trump supported a similar policy during the 2016 Republican presidential primary race, in contrast with other Republicans. Since then, Trump has instead proposed matching prescription drug prices to those in other countries as recently as October. During his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump listed lowering prescription drug prices as a policy priority, but he did not go into specifics.
“What we’re really doing today is just calling on President Trump to listen to candidate Trump, who talked about the way the pharmaceutical companies were basically guilty of murder, as he put it, and said we need to start bidding,” Doggett said.
Doggett remained optimistic that the bills could garner GOP support in the Senate now that Democrats can force the issue in the House and make an appeal to the president, though that remains their only new leverage.
The pharmaceutical industry spent more than $280 million lobbying last year, according to the nonpartisan federal campaign contribution tracker Center for Responsive Politics.
“When manufacturers spend more of their profits and tax breaks from the Republican tax law on stock buybacks, on marketing, on the full-page ads that are in today and yesterday’s papers in color than they’re doing on research and development, they don’t have much claim that they need to extort these kinds of high prices in order to provide for innovation,” Doggett said.
Other agencies, like the Department of Veterans Affairs, are allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices.
“In 2017, Medicare Part D spent $100 billion on prescription drugs,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “With that much money to spend, the government should be required to negotiate for the best price. This legislation will help lower the price of prescription drugs for everyone.”
Last year, Doggett had introduced a prescription drug bill similar to the one filed Thursday.
In 2018, AARP found that the average annual percent increase in brand name prescription drug costs outpaced the rate of inflation each year between 2006 and 2017. In 2015, average prescription drug costs increased by 15 percent while inflation grew by 0.1 percent. In 2018, Americans paid more than $360 billion on prescription drugs, according to Statistica.
“Let’s cut prices for patients instead of patients having to cut pills to deal with the problem that they’ve got,” said Doggett, who is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.