Sep 20, 2019

Members of E&C Consumer Protection Subcommittee Call for Bipartisan Action to Hold Brand Name Drug Makers Accountable


The U.S. House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection & Commerce held a hearing on “Exposing How Pharmaceutical Companies Game The System” on Thursday. During the hearing, lawmakers called out Big Pharma for a number of anti-competitive tactics – from product-hopping to patent thicketing – brand name drug manufacturers employ to block generic drugs from entering the market. By blocking competition, Big Pharma is able to maintain near monopolistic control over drugs in their portfolio, allowing them to raise and keep prices high at the expense of American patients and taxpayers. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle reiterated the need for bipartisan measures to hold Big Pharma accountable and deliver lower prescription drug prices for American patients.

Representative Jan Schakowsky, Energy & Commerce Consumer Protection & Commerce Subcommittee Chair (D-IL): “The bottom line is this: drug manufacturers are gaming the system to make more money at consumers’ expense and that has to stop. Big Pharma says that high prices and exclusivity are essential to innovation, but competition is actually more central to innovation and the opposite of what Big Pharma wants. Experts suggest that about 78 percent of the drugs that get new patents are not new drugs – they are new patents for existing drugs. Instead of truly innovating, drug manufacturers are taking advantage of the anti-competitive environment we have created by recycling old medicines into new formulas.”

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Energy & Commerce Consumer Protection & Commerce Subcommittee Ranking Member (R-WA): “Patients should always be put ahead of corporate profits. We need to make sure certain companies are not gaming the system to increase profits at the cost of patients. Product hopping occurs when a drug company attempts to switch patients from an older version of a drug to a newer version. Sometimes they withdraw the old drug and replace it with a new modified drug or they keep the old drug on the market and shift the market towards the new drug with a new marketing strategy. The concern is when bad actors use this tactic to game the system and limit consumer choices with unaffordable costs.”

Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI): “All of us have heard from constituents who are forced to cut pills in half, choose between paying for medication and rent or avoiding taking needed medicines entirely due to costs. Part of the reason these costs remain so high is due to the loopholes and tactics some pharmaceutical companies use to delay competition from generic drug manufacturers. Competition is crucial to lowering prescription drug prices and improving America’s access to lifesaving medication.”

Representative Greg Gianforte (R-MT): “Skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs are making it more difficult for Montanans to prosper and I’m committed to finding common sense solutions to this problem. Competition is incredibly important in any marketplace and I’m glad we’ve passed many bills out committee to increase generic competition. We need to find common sense solutions that make drugs less expensive, increase transparency where it’s needed and put patients first.”

Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL): “I hear it all the time from the families who I represent back home in Florida. They are paying astronomical amounts of money for their prescription drugs and its unconscionable in America that drug prices are so high that it’s driving some families into bankruptcy and into debt. And in many cases these drug prices are artificially high. Drug companies are gaming the system as our witnesses have illuminated.”

Representative Larry Bucshon (R-IN): “I’m interested in bipartisan solutions and I think that everyone on this Subcommittee and the Health Subcommittee are. I’m very proud of this committee and the fact that we have worked in a bipartisan way for many, many years on tough issues and found common ground and I think we can on drug pricing issues also … This is a front burner issue for everyone that I represent. When I talk to people out there, health care costs, specifically drug prices, is one of their top issues for an American family sitting around the kitchen table looking at their budget. I’m hopeful and optimistic that we can address it.”

The Campaign for Sustainable Drug Pricing (CSRxP) is encouraged by lawmakers’ bipartisan commitment to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prescription drug prices for American patients. Congress must capitalize on the unprecedented momentum to crack down on brand name drug makers’ egregious practices by passing bipartisan, market-based solutions to increase competition and boost transparency.