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Supporters of prescription drug reform look to revive issue in Congress

Caping price increases is among ideas
Prescription drugs pill bottles Getty 022509
Posted at 3:00 AM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 09:21:12-04

WASHINGTON — We've seen the high price of prescription drugs, from Lyrica to insulin, as costs have skyrocketed.

Last year, Congress came close to passing comprehensive drug reform but ultimately failed. Could a revised approach make a difference?

GROWING ISSUE

Meet Meg Jackson Drage. Even though you don't know her, you probably know someone who can relate with her story. Meg's doctor would like her on Lyrica, for her Fibromyalgia, however, her finances don't allow it.

"One bottle runs between $750 and $850," Meg said.

How does she afford it? "I can't," Meg responded.

Even though Meg lives in Utah, she recently visited Washington to lobby lawmakers to pass something before the midterm election.

"I would like to see a cap," Meg said as she looked at the U.S. Capitol dome.

NEW CAMPAIGN

A new "Push for lower prices" campaign was recently launched to encourage lawmakers to take action.

"We are here to advance historic legislation," David Mitchell, founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, said.

"We can do better," said Jo Ann Jenkins, the CEO of AARP.

WHAT'S NEW

Last year, prescription drug reform appeared as though it was actually going to happen, as it was a key component of the Build Back Better legislation championed by President Joe Biden. That however stalled last December and is not expected to be revised

However, there is a belief by some on Capitol Hill that prescription drug reform can be taken out of Build Back Better, and passed on its own.

One version of the legislation championed by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) would cap insulin at $35/month, limit some drug price increases each year and potentially allow Medicare to negotiate with prescription companies on the cost.

The reason this legislation has a chance is that Senator Joe Manchin, whose consequential vote often gives Democrats the majority, has said he would like a version of drug reform to become law. Republican Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) has also taken the lead in negotiating something Republicans can vote for.

So far though there is no plan for an official vote, with some lawmakers concerned about non-partisan research from the Congressional Budget Office that shows limiting drug prices could limit future scientific research and, in turn, new medications since the profits of pharmaceutical companies would be impacted.