President Donald Trump signed a law that ends insurance companies’ pharmacist gag clauses in an effort to lower drug prices Wednesday.
“If there’s anything bipartisan it’s lowering drug prices,” Trump said while signing the Patients’ Right To Know Drug Prices Act according to CBS News.
Currently, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers use the gag clauses to “forbid pharmacists from proactively telling consumers if their prescription would cost less if they paid for it out-of-pocket rather than using their insurance plan,” according to a press release from Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, the bill’s sponsor.
Trump also signed Democratic Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s Know the Lowest Price Act, which “prohibits Medicare drug plans from putting a gag clause on a pharmacy in their contracts,” according to CNN.
The Patients’ Right To Know Drug Prices Act would lead to “a slight decrease in federal revenues,” according to the Congressional Budget Office.
That decrease could be offset by another provision in the bill, reported Politico.
Collins’s bill also targets “pay-for-delay,” a tactic where a brand drug company pays a generic manufacturer to withhold a product that would compete with the brand drug for market share.
Closing this loophole could save consumers and taxpayers money, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
“Insurance is intended to save consumers money. Gag clauses in contracts that prohibit pharmacists from telling patients about the best prescription drug prices do the opposite,” said Senator Collins. “Who would think that using your debit card to buy your prescription drugs would be less expensive than using your insurance card? It’s counterintuitive. Americans have the right to know which payment method provides the most savings when purchasing their prescription drugs. By prohibiting gag clauses, our legislation would take concrete action to lower the cost of prescription drugs, saving consumers money.”
“It’s outrageous that these contract clauses would forbid pharmacists from helping Missourians pay less for the medicines they need,” Senator McCaskill said. “This bipartisan effort will help to end that practice, and we’ve got to continue taking every possible to step to make prescription drugs in this country more affordable.”
“It’s just wrong for people to overpay for their medication simply because their pharmacist is not allowed to tell them they could pay a lower price with cash instead of insurance,” said Senator Stabenow. “Our bills take an important step towards banning this outrageous practice that hurts Michigan families and seniors.”
The bill’s other authors are Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, as well as Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
Trump publicized his support for the Senate bill Sept. 17.
“Americans deserve to know the lowest drug price at their pharmacy, but ‘gag clauses’ prevent your pharmacist from telling you!”
Trump tweeted about the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act.
“I support legislation that will remove gag clauses and urge the Senate to act.”
Americans deserve to know the lowest drug price at their pharmacy, but “gag clauses” prevent your pharmacist from telling you! I support legislation that will remove gag clauses and urge the Senate to act. #AmericanPatientsFirst
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2018
Earlier this year, in his State of the Union address in January and again in New Hampshire in March, President Trump made a bold promise: “You’ll be seeing drug prices falling very substantially in the not-too-distant future,” he said, “and it’s going to be beautiful.”
Not if the pharmaceutical companies can stop it.
Big Pharma is pouring money into a lobbying campaign to thwart any serious efforts to rein in prescription drug prices ahead of a presidential speech this month where Trump plans to lay out his drug pricing proposals.
“There is apprehension across the industry,” said Bruce Artim, who retired recently after 11 years as the director of federal affairs at Eli Lilly and Company. “Pharma folks are nervous.”
Drugmakers spent $171.5 million lobbying the federal government last year — more than insurance, electronics, oil and gas or any other industry, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent group that tracks money in politics. reports The Hill. Spending by the main lobby for the industry, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, surged in the first quarter of this year, to $10 million, up from $8 million in the first quarter of last year and $6 million in the first quarter of 2016, the trade association said in reports filed with Congress. Its spending is on pace to top the annual totals it reported in recent years, $25.4 million in 2017 and $19.6 million in 2016.
Drug companies and their trade associations deployed 882 lobbyists last year, more than two-thirds of whom had previously worked for Congress or federal agencies, the center said.
And as Trump moves to flesh out one of his more popular campaign promises, drugmakers may have reason to mobilize. During the presidential campaign, Trump embraced positions on this issue long held by Democrats — and long opposed by his party and the pharmaceutical industry. He said, for example, that Medicare officials should negotiate prices with drug manufacturers, and that consumers should be allowed to import prescription drugs from Canada and certain other countries where brand-name drug prices are generally lower than in the United States.
The American people are very likely to back him. A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 80 percent of Americans believe that drug costs are unreasonably high.
“The president’s concerns are born out of this populist impulse that we have to acknowledge: that patients are paying more for their health care, more for their medicine,” said Stephen J. Ubl, the president and chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Efforts to attack the problem, even by the president, face stiff headwinds. The numbers bear out Trump’s statement that “pharma has a lot of lobbies and a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power.”
With its deep pockets and sophisticated lobbying, the drug industry has beaten back many efforts to reduce the payments it receives from Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs.
“Big Pharma has made a huge investment in Congress, with extensive lobbying and massive campaign contributions,” said Representative Lloyd Doggett, Democrat of Texas.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
October 13th, 2018