Is GOP Action on Drug Prices At a Standstill?
By Lindsay Brown, President of the Board of Directors at Prescription Justice
Everyone wants to know: will GOP action on drug prices stagnate in the Biden era? Ok, maybe not everyone but we here at Prescription Justice do, and as a registered Republican, I certainly do. All of the Trump executive actions on drug price reform are currently held up in court with lawsuits and injunctions, threatening one of the few positive legacies from the Trump administration. Democrats walked away from Grassley & Wyden’s Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2020 last year at their party leadership’s direction, ensuring it won’t come to a vote. It seems like Republican leadership on the issue has come to a standstill.
What Republican leadership needs to realize is that the key to winning the House and Senate back in 2022 is spearheading drug price legislation. We need incumbents to cast bipartisan votes in favor of drug price reform. Candidates looking to challenge incumbent Democrats should make a point to highlight their competitor’s inaction on drug prices and pledge to do more. This is an issue that is important to voters and will not go unnoticed. It would behoove us as a party to reconsider our position as the opposition party and work with Democratic leadership to pass needed drug price reform.
Sadly, with the most competitive and divided political climate since before the Civil War, bipartisanship is out the window, even on issues that are considered most important to voters on both sides of the aisle. Many Republicans are reluctant to vote on Democrat-backed drug price reform bills in the spirit of bipartisanship, even if they are ideologically aligned with the content of the legislation.
Despite the intransigence, some Republicans are still committed to the issue and willing to work with colleagues across the aisle. Sen. Grassley recently worked with Sen. Wyden on an insulin price investigation which revealed that insulin prices, even when accounting for research and technological advances, are still inflated beyond reasonable market value. It’s not legislation yet, but investigations like this are still important work to build momentum towards meaningful legislative change.
With Democrats back on top in the federal government, where does that leave Republicans to take leadership with drug pricing reform? Look to the states. Republicans maintain control of both the governor’s mansion and legislature in 23 states, with legislative control in 30. In the remaining Democrat-controlled states, Republicans need to be leaders on drug price reform legislation with bipartisan support. In Florida, State Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-District 60) put forward a bill targeting PBMs. Michigan announced a bipartisan commission aimed at drug price reform. Maryland’s legislature cast a bipartisan vote to override Gov. Hogan’s veto on funding the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. California’s legislature is working on a prescription drug importation bill led by Democrats but Republicans would be wise to jump onboard.
Republicans have the opportunity to be on the right side of history as a minority party championing one of voters’ most important issues in the next two years. Hopefully, they step up to the plate and I’ll be here cheering them on and sharing the progress with you.