Menendez, Booker, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Lower High Cost of Rx Drugs

Menendez, Booker, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Lower High Cost of Rx Drugs

   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, and Cory Booker today joined a bipartisan group of Senators in introducing legislation aimed at reining in skyrocketing prescription drug by making it easier for lower cost generics to come to market. 

“One of the reasons why we are not seeing reduced prescription drug prices is because some bad actors continue to game the system to prevent cheaper drugs from coming to market.  That’s why we need laws that support healthy competition in the pharmaceutical marketplace and ensure drug companies who have the means to lower costs do the right thing by patients,” said Sen. Menendez.  “For anyone who has struggled with a chronic condition like high blood pressure or depression, the ability to afford your medication is not just a matter of health, but, sadly, a matter of wealth.  Driving down soaring health care costs starts by reining in out-of-control prescription drug prices.”

The bipartisan Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act cracks down on drug companies that intentionally delay the required sharing of product samples with generic manufacturers to develop generic, lower cost versions of the brand-name drug.  Under the bill, the branded pharmaceutical company could be held civilly liable and subject to damages for not providing samples in a timely fashion.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that the bill would result in a $3.9 billion net decrease in the federal deficit.  Savings to consumers and private insurers likely would be far greater—many billions of dollars more.  The legislation is strongly supported by a coalition of groups as diverse as AARP, American College of Physicians, FreedomWorks, Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs, and many more.

Sen. Menendez cosponsored the CREATES Act, originally introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), in the last Congress as part of series of measures to lower prescription drug prices. 

Last June, Sen. Menendez grilled Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar over the Trump Administration’s position on the CREATES Act.  Sec. Azar failed to take a position.

The current bill is cosponsored by Sens. Menendez, Leahy, Grassley, Klobuchar, Lee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jodi Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Angus King (I-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), John Tester (D-Mont.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Todd Young (R-Ind.).  Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and others.

Sen. Menendez cosponsored the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act and the Know the Lowest Price Act, signed into law last year, which creates greater transparency and lowers the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs by banning insurance companies from issuing “gag clauses” in Affordable Care Act, employer and Medicare drug plans.  These gag clauses prevent pharmacists from discussing cheaper options with their patients, such as paying out-of-pocket versus using their provider. 

In the last Congress, Sen. Menendez also cosponsored the Stopping the Pharmaceutical Industry from Keeping Drugs Expensive (SPIKE) Act that would require pharmaceutical companies who engage in price-gouging to publicly explain their exorbitant price hikes.  Drug manufacturers are not required under current law to publicly report increases in the list price of drugs, and there is no deterrent for them to unreasonably raise drug prices.

The Senator held a roundtable discussion in August at North Hudson Community Action Corporation’s Community Health Center in Passaic where he heard from New Jerseyans with chronic illnesses struggling to afford their lifesaving medication due to astronomical prescription drug prices.