Just like Angela Bassett, the Senate Judiciary Committee did the thing, and passed five bipartisan bills to help fix key elements of our rigged drug price system.
Welcome To The Week In Review.
- The Inflation Reduction Act Keeps Bringing Relief
- Patients across the country are speaking out about the ways the new drug price reforms in the Inflation Reduction Act are improving their lives. Patricia in Virginia was able to get a free shingles vaccine; Julia in Kansas will save thousands of dollars a year now that her insulin copays are capped at $35 a month; Judy in Arizona is “already seeing savings on prescription drugs;” and in 2025, thousands of Montanans on Medicare Part D “will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their pharmacy costs are capped.” Members of the Biden administration and partners are working to spread the word to make sure more people on Medicare know how the law is lowering drug costs. Director of Center for Medicare Meena Seshamani joined an AARP hosted tele-town hall to walk through the new reforms: “It was really important to deliver [cost savings] right away because we know how much not only people with Medicare, but their families, [and] their communities who support them, have been struggling with these high costs.” Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra joined a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit and new U.S. House Representative Summer Lee to make sure people on Medicare “know what their rights are” when it comes to the new drug price reforms. For Julia, the Inflation Reduction Act means a lot: “I really cried the day that I saw that this had been passed, because it is such a huge thing.” — (The Free Lance-Star, Shawnee Mission Post, AARP, Arizona Daily Star, Independent Record, AARP, WESA)
2. Senators Are Serious About PBM Reform
- Last week, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing calling for transparency into and accountability from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Members of the committee discussed the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Transparency Act of 2023 (S. 127), a bill that has potential to shine a light on the secret practices of PBMs. “There is no transparency in PBMs. When you combine that with anti-competitive tactics, this is a recipe where the only people who win in healthcare costs are PBMs,” Senator Jon Tester said at the hearing. We agree, and are glad to see the committee, and Congress at large, is building momentum to address this part of our drug price system. “One of the reasons we must have transparency and take these steps towards reform is because there’s too much integration here,” P4AD’s David Mitchell remarked in an interview this week. “It used to be that PBMs were separate from insurers and now they are one in the same. We need to see how those mergers are affecting the way the PBMs do business.” This hearing builds on efforts by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed a bipartisan package of five bills earlier this month, including one bill (S. 113) that would launch an investigation into the role of PBMs within the pharmaceutical supply chain. Politico’s Megan R. Wilson spoke optimistically about the PBM reforms in this Congress, saying, “I just think there’s more momentum…than there’s been in a while.” Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle recognize the importance of taking on PBMs – we look forward to working further with Congress to ensure PBMs work for patients, not corporate bottom lines. — (Fierce Healthcare, Health Payer Specialist, Politico)
3. It’s TIME To “Return The Patent System To Its Original Intent”
This week, leaders in the drug pricing space and members of Congress are talking about how Big Pharma’s abuse of the U.S. drug patent system continues to force patients to pay high drug prices. “At the root of our nation’s drug pricing crisis is the industry’s egregious abuse of a broken drug patent system,” the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK)’s Tahir Amin and P4AD’s David Mitchell summarized in a new op-ed in TIME. The authors call on Congress to “stand up to drugmakers’ deceptive, anti-competitive tactics and return the patent system to its original intent.” Members of Congress are taking note of Big Pharma’s patent abuses, too. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and Reps. Katie Porter and Pramila Jayapal wrote a letter on Wednesday to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) asking the agency to closely review additional patent requests on Merck’s blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda. Merck is attempting to “[extend] its monopoly power over the drug” with additional patents that would delay competing drugs from coming to market, keep prices high, and limit access for patients. This inquiry follows the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recent passage of five bipartisan bills that include legislation to address patent abuse and increase coordination between the USPTO and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure that patents are not unfairly blocking competition. We are grateful to see momentum and bipartisan support for patent reform from members of Congress – and we will keep fighting until the rigged patent system is fixed and patients can afford their medications. — (TIME, Endpoints)
Bonus: ICYMI, check out last week’s media roundup of P4AD leaders and patient advocates debunking Big Pharma, fighting for future reforms, and celebrating recent wins.
Have a great weekend, everyone!