Last Month in the World of Prescription Justice
By Gabriel Levitt, Chairman of Prescription Justice Board of Directors
In looking back at drug price politics in March, in her April 2nd update covering the Democrats on this issue, my fellow board member Colleen Kenny LaRocque reminds us that Democrats may want bipartisanship to lower drug prices, but they don’t need it. Our organization, Prescription Justice, really wants to bring the country together on a bipartisan basis to lower drug prices and convey that in our work. However, as Colleen strongly articulates, there exists a Democratic partisan reality of having full control of the government and not squandering the opportunity it presents on drug prices. She affirms that Democrats need to move legislation forward alone if necessary. To boot, she adds that “Republicans are not on board with the spirit of bipartisanship. Not by a long shot.”
Partisan perhaps, but, you know what, at least when it comes to drug prices, unlike say, guns, immigration or reproductive rights, issues on which Republican and Democratic voters are at loggerheads, voters across party lines are united not just on the importance of lowering drug prices but on how to do it. So, on this note, if the Democrats are able to muscle through big reforms, like allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and drug importation, not just from Canada, but many high-income countries, Republicans for the most part would be really psyched.
Democratic bills introduced last month are repeats of ones introduced back in 2019 when the party did not control the senate, all endorsed by Prescription Justice. In the senate, all of the bills below were introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with identical bills introduced in the House, identified below as well. One liner bill summaries are quoted from Sen. Sanders’ press release:
The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act (S. 909), introduced in the House, H.R. 2148, by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), “peg[s] the price of prescription drugs in the United States to the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan.”
The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act (S. 908), introduced in the House, H.R. 2139, by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), “to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.”
Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act (S. 920), introduced in the House, H.R. 2181, by Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), “to allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.”
It’s those bills and measures called for in the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 that we can expect Democrats to try and place in the an upcoming infrastructure or budget reconciliation bill.
Bipartisanship on drug prices is not dead, as Prescription Justice member Lindsay Brown informs us in “Bipartisanship is the Key to GOP's Future in Drug Prices.” Some Republicans got busy last month, too–and usually working with a Democrat. Of note is Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) who teamed up yet again to introduce the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act. Another bill calling for transparency in drug pricing was sponsored and co-sponsored by United States Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Finally, I’m excited that Isaiah Cochran, MD, made his debut blog post as a Prescription Justice board member this past week. Dr. Cochran is in the trenches. As a first-year family medicine resident at Halifax Medical Center, he hears from patients directly about the problems they have affording drugs. In “Why I Fight for Prescription Justice,” Isaiah writes:
“I strongly believe that to accomplish our mission to serve as doctors, we must also participate in advocacy, health policy, and holding our legislators accountable for the laws and policies they enact and fail to enact. Here at Prescription Justice, we have worked very hard to provide the public with information about what our legislators are doing to fight for affordable medications.”
Amen to that.