FiercePharmaPolitics—Grassley's bipartisan drug pricing push in limbo as lawmakers stop negotiating

Capital building
Any drug pricing legislation seems increasingly unlikely to pass in 2020. (Pixabay)

Once a hot topic in American politics, drug prices have taken a back seat to the COVID-19 pandemic and conversations around racial injustice nationwide. In the midst of all that, though, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has still been pushing for drug pricing legislation. But his effort now seems to be losing steam.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, Grassley wrote that lawmakers “must not let events serve as an excuse for doing nothing about drug prices.”

“This is the time to address the crisis of healthcare affordability,” he added.

The problem, as Grassley sees it, is that lawmakers have lost interest in negotiating on drug pricing legislation. Democrats “have left the negotiating table,” he wrote, in pursuit of “political gain.” Republicans, meanwhile, are “sitting on their hands” and “throwing the taxpayers we claim to champion under the bus.”

Sen. Grassley’s bill, originally co-sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, calls for price hike limits in Medicare and out-of-pocket caps for patients. Wyden is no longer supporting the bill, The Hill reports.

“Unfortunately, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and many other Senate Republicans are too afraid of Big Pharma to join our effort, so there is no reason to expect our bill will receive a vote on the Senate floor,” he said in a statement. “Senate Democrats are not interested in aiding Republicans as they play political games and pretend to support lowering prescription drug prices.”

RELATED: 'They're more hated than COVID-19': Minnesota governor blasts PhRMA for insulin pricing lawsuit

On the state level, things heated up last week in Minnesota, where the governor said the pharma industry is “more hated than COVID-19.” That was in response to an industry lawsuit claiming the state’s new insulin affordability law is unconstitutional.  

Minnesota lawmakers passed the bill, and Gov. Tim Walz signed it into law last week. On the eve of a press conference celebrating the signing, PhRMA sued, prompting criticism from Walz and others.