House Leaders Make Key Change To Bill

( Democratic leaders in the House made a change at the last possible minute in their deal to ultimately reduce the prices of prescription drugs.

Media outlet The Hill cited a person familiar with the matter who said the change was necessary after a dispute arose over the simple wording of the Democrats’ proposal.

Last Thursday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with California Representative Scott Peters and other Democratic lawmakers to resolve this issue. The Democrats are cutting it close to try to get enough votes to support President Joe Biden’s massive social spending bill that he wants to get passed.

As a result of the compromise, one more year of exclusivity will be provided before Medicare is able to negotiate down prices for specific complex drugs that are called biologics. The total exclusive period will now be 13 years instead of 12.

The original text in the agreement for drug pricing needed to be changed, lawmakers said. Earlier last week, an announcement was made that a compromise was agreed to.

The agreement would’ve given provided nine years of exclusivity for most drugs, but 12 years for biologics, which are more complex. In the text, writers of the bill wrote seven and 10 years, as the drafters said there was a delay of two years for the process of negotiations to play out.

In actuality, that meant those numbers would really be nine and 12 years, respectively.

But, some of the moderate House Democrats, including Peters, wanted that period of exclusivity to expire completely before any negotiations would start. In essence, that would add two more years, so that the new total would be 11 and 14 years, respectively, depending on what drug type it was.

Instead, the compromise that the Democrats reached would add one year of exclusivity to the biologics. The new totals are nine and 13 years, respectively.

In the end, this marks yet another shift from Democrats away from the progressive wing of the party and toward that of the moderates, including the likes of Kathleen Rice of New York and Kurt Schrader of Oregon.

Both of those Democratic members of the House said reform on drug prices shouldn’t harm innovation that pharmaceutical companies have. They believe that anything that deters innovation would ultimately be worse for the American people than the higher prices would.

While this is definitely a compromise on the part of advocates for drug prices to be lowered, it’s still a win in many of their eyes.

As the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Medicare expert Tricia Neuman said:

“I think this is a significant step forward. I know some people are disappointed it isn’t broader, but it is a foot in the door.”

On the other side of the coin, though, is the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Its CEO, Stephen Ubl, commented:

“If passed, it will upend the same innovative ecosystem that brought us lifesaving vaccines and therapies to combat COVID-19. Under the guise of ‘negotiation,’ it gives the government the power to dictate how much a medicine is worth and leaves many patients facing a future with less access to medicines and fewer new treatments.”