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Drug Price Measure Eyed by Parliamentarian

The pharmaceutical industry is relying on obscure Senate rules as a last-ditch effort to derail Democrats’ plan to regulate prescription medication costs. Drugmakers are assisting Republican senators as they argue before Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough that drug price controls cannot be included in Democrats’ $2 trillion climate and social spending bill, in addition to their usual flurry of lobbying — which centres on blaming other parts of the health-care system for rising costs.

The fight against the drug price bill will take place this week at the so-called Byrd bath, a conference where lawmakers can argue with a Parliamentarian about whether certain provisions can be passed through the budget reconciliation process.

The industry’s best opportunity to prevent its first legislative defeat in decades is to make a last-ditch push. Democrats’ plan would give Medicare the authority to negotiate the price of some older prescription drugs, impose a $35 monthly cap on what patients must pay for insulin, cap annual out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare recipients at $2,000, and prohibit drugmakers from raising prices faster than inflation.

While the pharmaceutical industry successfully pressured a few Democrats to downgrade the party’s original drug pricing bill, which would have reduced the price of far more pharmaceuticals, the current scaled-back version would still cost the company billions of dollars in revenue every year. The pharmaceutical industry’s focus has shifted to Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who supports the current drug pricing framework despite her opposition to the more aggressive approach. Republicans will argue that the bill’s policy changes exceed its budgetary implications.

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