Modest H.R. 3 Amendments Are Helpful But, More Will Be Required to Curb Monopoly Pricing

Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program

Note: This morning, amendments to the U.S. House Democratic leadership’s signature drug pricing proposal, H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, were unveiled by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. Amendments include allowing the government to negotiate prices for some newly launched drugs, eventually increasing the number of drugs required to be negotiated from 25 to 35 annually, establishing transparency requirements and improving access to Medicare Low Income Subsidies. Progressive proposals for strengthening and improving H.R. 3 go substantially further than those announced today.

H.R. 3 is an important move toward bringing relief to people suffering from drug industry price-gouging. The changes made to the legislation from its more conservative inception early this year testify to the power of patients and their families who spoke out about medical debt and treatment rationing and demanded that their government do better. Ultimately, making medicine affordable will require going further to disrupt corporate monopoly pricing.

The amendments announced today include several modest improvements as well as the helpful change to allow negotiation on some high and rising launch prices. Unfortunately, one amendment seems to weaken the bill’s ability to limit manufacturers’ spiking prescription prices for Medicare Part D sales.

The bill should be strengthened further to cover more Americans and more expensive prescriptions while dealing still more effectively with launch prices, which otherwise will continue to increase, according to independent estimates by the Congressional Budget Office and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Actuary. The bill should be amended to directly curb year-to-year price spikes in the private market and protect people who are uninsured. It also should consider increasing the public contribution to drug development and innovation. The bill’s substantive limitations flow in part from a limited process: H.R. 3 still would benefit from a wider range of contributors and more robust discussion.

It is critically important that the U.S. government begin broadly negotiating drug prices. H.R. 3 would get this done. Still, even if H.R. 3 becomes law, it is probable that over time, the prices of new drugs will continue to rise. We still need stronger fixes and legislators who will stand up to make them.