HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Drug bill shows limits on Democrats’ power

House Democrats this week are poised to pass the most sweeping drug pricing legislation in decades. This will represent a fraction of what many of them wanted.

The climate change, inflation and health care measure that the Senate passed on a party-line vote Sunday is the result of nearly a year of compromise and negotiation, lawmakers say. Parts of the drug pricing clashed with opposing camps of Democrats: one that wanted to cover as many people and drugs as possible, and another that wanted to limit its scope to protect the pharmaceutical industry.

Some popular provisions from the package were also cut from the Senate budget process, which would have prevented key aspects of the bill from reaching private health insurance coverage. The legislation set to reach President Joe Biden’s desk is focused largely on what seniors pay for drugs — what many supporters say is just a first step in addressing high prices.

“This is years overdue, and there are still many millions of Americans who are not covered by this legislation, and we absolutely must do more,” said Christopher Morten, a professor at Columbia University Law School who works with pricing advocates on the medicines.

But the legislation may be the last major action by Congress on drug pricing for the foreseeable future. Democrats face tough midterm elections and the prospect of losing their majority in at least one house of Congress, making it unlikely they will be able to pass follow-up legislation in the next two years.

And not all Democrats want to do more. “What we have is a good balance that allows the private sector to continue to generate these drugs and get relief for the elderly,” the representative said. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), which represents an area in San Diego where American biotech and pharmaceutical corporations are among the largest employers. San Diego is home to the offices of Pfizer, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Roche AG’s Genentech, among other major companies. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

The pharmaceutical lobby is preparing legal firepower: The provisions to lower prescription drug prices will inevitably be challenged by drug companies even though they have not yet become law, lawyers say. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has already come out strongly against the drug negotiation provision. President and CEO Steven Uble said in a statement that this “will lead to fewer new drugs and treatments for patients battling cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.”

“No one should be surprised that there will be litigation” as a result, said Rachel Sachs, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who studies drug pricing. “The pharmaceutical industry has sued to challenge many secular state laws on transparency. Absolutely, that’s what they’re going to sue to challenge. Shira Stein has more.

What else you need to know today

Monkeypox Shot-Extending Tactic Get permission: Health officials are issuing emergency authorization for a tactic to expand supplies of a monkeypox vaccine made by Bavarian Nordic amid ongoing shortages. The action will allow the FDA to “exercise additional authority that may increase the availability of vaccines to prevent monkeypox” while “continuing to ensure that the vaccine meets high standards,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra it said in a statement. Read more from Madison Mueller.

  • Republican response: House Energy and Commerce ranking member Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.) and others criticized the Biden administration’s response to the monkeypox outbreak. Lawmakers want Becerra to provide a briefing on vaccine availability and the government’s plans to purchase additional doses, as well as the status of monkeypox treatment. Read their letter here.

Facebook user posts lead to abortion charges: A Nebraska woman has been charged with two felonies related to an illegal abortion after authorities discovered information about the pregnancy through private messages on Facebook Messenger, new court documents show. The case has renewed debate over how law enforcement can use social media accounts in cases involving one’s own reproductive choices. Read more from Kurt Wagner and Dina Bass.

Bedoya wants a study on the impact of social media on health: The Federal Trade Commission’s newest member, Alvaro Bedoya, said he is looking to hire a psychologist to his staff to focus on the effect social media platforms have on children and teenagers. Bedoya said he has read studies suggesting that teenagers, especially teenage girls, who use social media face potential mental health harms such as anxiety and depression. Read more from Andrea Vittorio.

To contact the reporter for this story: Brandon Lee in Washington on [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at [email protected]

Leave a Comment