US Democratic lawmakers introduce bills targeting drug pricing

US lawmakers including Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Elijah Cummings introduced legislation on Thursday seeking to reduce prescription drug prices. "The United States pays by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs," Sanders commented, adding "if the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed, which is literally killing Americans, then we will end it for them."  

One piece of legislation, named the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, would link the prices of prescription drugs in the US to the median price from five countries, namely Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. The measure would be in line with a proposal announced in October by the administration of US President Donald Trump that would tie drug prices paid by Medicare to an "international pricing index" (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: Trump leads latest assault against Part B bellwethers).

Another part of the bills would allow Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to negotiate prices paid by Medicare Part D. The bills would additionally let consumers import drugs from Canada and other countries and permit generic drug competition for "excessively priced" products. 

Commenting on the news, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) stated "the proposals from Senator Sanders would wreak havoc on the US healthcare system," continuing "they would interfere with patient access to medicine, while also undermining the US intellectual property system, replicating the flawed policies of foreign governments and circumventing the [FDA's] robust safety standards."  

The news comes after sources indicated earlier this week that Trump planned to meet with top advisers regarding drug pricing after companies raised the prices of more than 250 drugs by an average of 6.3 percent. Pfizer, which was among the drugmakers that delayed price hikes in response to criticism from the President, expressed plans in November to increase the prices of 41 products at the start of this year. 

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has previously unveiled a number of initiatives targeting US drug pricing. Last May, Trump announced plans seeking to increase competition in the pharmaceutical industry. Later, HHS disclosed a proposed rule change that would require drugmakers to reveal the prices of certain drugs in direct-to-consumer advertising. 

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