FiercePharmaPolitics—Lawmakers aim to advance pricing legislation amid COVID-19 pandemic

Drug pricing legislation is vying for attention in Washington amid the pandemic. (Pixabay)

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. 

For years, drug pricing has been a top issue of focus for politicians and Americans. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, legislation on the subject is vying for attention in Washington. 

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced two new bills to bolster biosimilars, Politico reports, but it remains to be seen how far the efforts will get. Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office issued favorable findings for Sen. Charles Grassley’s pricing legislation, but he’s still fighting to gain Republican support. 

On the biosimilar bills, Democrats in the House have introduced legislation to institute a shared savings plan in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to incentivize doctors to use copycat biologics, according to Politico. In the Senate, two Republicans are pursuing legislation to lower patient costs for biosims in Medicare Part B.  

Meanwhile, Sen. Grassley is still trying to convince Republicans to back his bill, which President Donald Trump has said he supports. As of now, the senator believes 24 Republicans would vote for the bill, Politico reports, but it has still not been scheduled for a vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office concluded the legislation would cut federal spending by $95 billion over a decade. In a statement at the time, President Donald Trump said he’s “calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices. 

“Get a bill to my desk, and I will sign it into law without delay,” the president added. 

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

Grassley’s bill seeks to limit price hikes, implement an out-of-pocket cap for patients, force insurers to pass negotiated savings to patients and more. He previously predicted the legislation would pass a bipartisan vote in May, but a lot has changed since he made the prediction.

Meanwhile, as chloroquine gets attention for its potential efficacy against the infection, market watchers found that Rising Pharmaceuticals previously doubled its price for the medicine, Stat reports. The company has since walked the price increase back. 

RELATED: Novartis, Merck and Allergan join Big Pharma's 2020 price-hike parade 

To add more data to the ongoing trend over list prices and net prices, Eli Lilly disclosed its pricing changes in 2019. The company’s list prices grew an average of 3%, while net prices fell 3.3%, according to an SEC filing

On that subject, consultancy SSR Health has released its latest findings on pricing changes in pharma during the fourth quarter. List prices grew 2.7% across the industry during the period, while net prices fell 2.2%, a spokeswoman said. The group expects minor list price increases throughout 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the upcoming election and the ongoing debate about healthcare affordability.