The Senate Finance Committee today held the first in a planned series of bipartisan hearings on high prescription drug prices and potential policy and oversight solutions to lower costs for patients. Witness Kathy Sego described her family’s struggle to afford insulin for her son, which costs them $487 per vial with insurance. Mark Miller, vice president of health care for the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and former executive director of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, discussed policy options to address rising drug costs in Medicare and Medicaid. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, president of the American Action Forum, called for promoting competition and financial incentives to keep costs and prices down. Peter Bach, a physician who leads the Drug Pricing Lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said most participants in the pharmaceutical supply chain benefit from rising spending and prices due to “inflationary distortions” in the system. Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said they plan to bring drug company executives before the panel in the future.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform also held a hearing today on the issue. Witnesses included representatives from AARP, the Program on Regulation, Therapeutics and Law at Harvard Medical School, and Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The AHA, Federation of American Hospitals and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists earlier this month released a report that found continued rising drug prices, as well as shortages for many critical medications, are disrupting patient care and forcing hospitals to delay infrastructure and staffing investments and identify alternative therapies. To restrain out-of-control drug prices, the AHA has recommended several options including stopping brand-name manufacturers' anticompetitive actions by addressing ever-greening and pay-for-delay practices, speeding up generic drug approvals, and passing the CREATES Act.