FiercePharmaPolitics—Congress' stimulus likely pushes back drug pricing action

Welcome to the FiercePharma political roundup, where each Monday we’ll highlight developments in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that could affect drug pricing and how drugmakers operate.

When the year started, many pharma and political experts believed the industry would face intense pricing scrutiny—and possibly reforms—throughout the year and leading up to the election.

But now, with the novel coronavirus pandemic, the topic has lost momentum in Washington. Congress’ $2.2 trillion stimulus package, passed late last week, moved back a key expiration date for certain health programs to Nov. 30 from May 22. 

Previously, Sen. Charles Grassley had been pushing to get his pricing measures passed by May. His bill from the Senate Finance Committee calls for price hike limits and an out-of-pocket cap for patients, forcing insurers to pass negotiated savings to patients and more.

RELATED: Grassley pushes for Senate drug pricing bill to pass by May 

But with the new deadline, it’s not as likely pricing legislation will pass before November’s election, The Hill reports. Congress could pass a bill at any time, but recent history on drug pricing shows it’ll be tough to reach a consensus amid the current crisis. A Grassley spokesman told the publication the pandemic "shows why now more than ever seniors need to be able to afford the prescription drugs they rely on to survive."

Meanwhile, as many Americans lose work due to the pandemic, Lilly is purchasing ads in top newspapers to let patients know about its insulin affordability options, a spokesman said. The company is running ads in more than 10 major newspapers directing patients to the company’s diabetes solution center

RELATED: Gilead asks FDA to rescind remdesivir orphan drug tag after public backlash 

Lastly, Gilead Sciences found itself in a dust-up over potential pricing on remdesivir to treat COVID-19. After the company scored an FDA orphan drug designation—and market exclusivity—critics including Sen. Bernie Sanders hit back. Gilead has asked the FDA to rescind the designation, and the company’s CEO Daniel O’Day wrote this weekend that the company will “ensure affordability and access” for patients with the greatest need if the drug is approved.