House passes drug pricing bill, likely ending its journey


The House of Representatives passed a partisan drug pricing bill, a move that likely ends its legislative journey as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already signaled he will not bring it to the Senate floor.

U.S. Capitol Alicia Ault/MDedge News

The Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act (H.R. 3) passed Dec. 12 on a near party-line vote of 230-192, with two Republicans crossing the aisle to join the Democrats in support of the bill, and no Democrats voting against it. Four members from each party did not record votes.

“The American people are fed up with paying 3, 4, or 10 times more than people in other countries for the exact same drug,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J) said in a statement following the passage. “I’m proud that the House took decisive action today to finally level the playing field and provide real relief to the American people.”

H.R. 3 would give the secretary of Health and Human Services the ability to negotiate with drug manufacturers on the price of pharmaceuticals in Medicare Part D (and available in the commercial markets) using an international pricing benchmark and would penalize manufacturers who do not negotiate or fail to lower prices to be more in line with generally lower costs internationally.

Drug prices would need to be within 120% of the average price in a reference group of six nations: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

Savings from the lower costs that result from negotiations would be reinvested into medical research.

Passage of H.R. 3 would “lower ... medication by 65%” per year for women with breast cancer, Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) said during the floor debate.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the drug price negotiation provision would lower spending on pharmaceuticals by $465 billion over the next 10 years, offset partially by an increase in spending by $358 billion associated with provisions to provide dental, vision, and hearing coverage.

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