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Congressman Lloyd Doggett

Representing the 35th District of Texas

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Making Patient Health & Livelihood Nonnegotiable: Chairman Doggett Holds Hearing on Affordability, Competition & Access to Medicines in Medicare

March 7, 2019

***Press Release***

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 7, 2019

Contact: Kate Stotesbery

202-225-4865

 

Making Patient Health & Livelihood Nonnegotiable: Chairman Doggett Holds Hearing on Affordability, Competition & Access to Medicines in Medicare

Washington, DC — Today, Chairman Doggett held a Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing on medicines in Medicare. Hearing from experts testifying to policy options and patient experience, it explored ways that Medicare can encourage affordability, competition, and access to medicines, as patients face a prescription drug affordability crisis. It featured expert witnesses Frederick Isasi, Executive Director, Families USA; Robin Feldman, Director of the Institute for Innovation Law, UC Hastings College of Law; Ameet Sarpatwari, Assistant Director of the Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law (PORTAL) Harvard Medical School; Amy Kapczysnki, Co-Director of the Global Health Justice Partnership, Yale Law School; and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President, American Action Forum.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that patients come first and that it is their health and livelihoods that are the only things that are nonnegotiable,” said Chairman Doggett. “Unaffordability and inaccessibility are not the unavoidable side effects of innovation. They are the result of unrestrained monopoly power.” You can watch Chairman Doggett’s opening remarks here or below. Full hearing video is here.

In today’s hearing, Robin Feldman shared, “There is no silver bullet for solving the crisis of soaring drug prices. Nevertheless, tax loophole reform, one-and-done, transparency measures, and the power of the purse (e.g. improvements to the NIH grant process) could help the pharmaceutical marketplace return to health.” She continued, “Our challenge as a society is to restore the balance provided by the patent and regulatory system itself, in which the inventor of a truly innovative product receives a limited period of time in which to attempt to garner a return, after which open competition reigns supreme.”

Ameet Sarpatwari testified, “We pay the highest drug prices in the world, which often are not connected to the value the drugs provide. Implementation of sensible reforms to increase the negotiating ability of payers and to promote greater competition in the marketplace—a number of which I have identified in my testimony—would help make drugs more affordable without jeopardizing the development of tomorrow’s cures.”

Amy Kapczynski said, “The government patent use power is sometimes referred to as ‘compulsory licensing,’ or criticized by industry as ‘breaking patents.’ More properly, it should simply be understood as the exercise of a long-standing government right to avoid the risk of hold-up that attends private exclusive rights, particularly when they are applied against the government.” She also testified: “Finally, it is important to note that government negotiation need not significantly harm innovation, and indeed can improve innovation if designed well.”

“Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry have done an incredible job of defending the status quo despite ample evidence that drug prices are out of control,” shared Frederick Isasi. “There’s literally a quarter billion dollars per year being spent to keep you and others from acting. I commend the subcommittee and the entire Congress for your efforts to stand up to the combined power of the drug industry and for putting consumers first.”

Douglas Holtz-Eakin attested, “Over the past several years, the public’s attention has increasingly been focused on the cost of health care, and specifically the contribution of prescription medications to those costs.”

 

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