FiercePharmaPolitics—Republican senator backs Medicare price negotiations, importation

Republican Sen. Martha McSally introduced a government drug pricing negotiation bill, but it isn't as ambitious as an effort by Democrats. (U.S. House of Representatives)

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.

Many Democrats have gotten behind Medicare price negotiations—with the House of Representatives endorsing the measure as part of an aggressive drug pricing bill—but Republicans have largely pushed back and said the strategy would represent price controls. 

Now, one Senate Republican, Martha McSally, is rolling out a Medicare pricing negotiation bill. It’s less ambitious than the bill Democrats previously passed, because McSally's would only apply to drugs that have lost patent protections and exclusivity but still hold a monopoly, Politico reports. That wouldn’t apply to most medicines, an expert told the publication. McSally's legislation also supports importation, according to The Hill. 

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Sen. Chuck Grassley, who’s leading an effort in the Senate to get pricing measures passed, said the bill won’t be included in his legislation, Inside Health Policy reports

Meanwhile, during the Democratic primaries, pharma companies have been a popular target. At a debate last week, candidates compared pharma companies—which develop lifesaving and life-changing products—to tobacco and gun companies, CNBC’s Meg Tirrell reports.

The industry continues spending amid the important election year. In tracking pharma spending, MediaRadar found that Pfizer’s spending for Sunday morning talk shows has jumped by 150%; GlaxoSmithKline’s is up 100%. Companies have also placed ads in The Economist, The New Yorker, Politico and CQ Roll Call. The ads are intended to reach people who shape the debate around drug pricing.

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

Amid back and forth in Washington, Minnesota is the latest state to look for its own drug pricing solutions. Calling the pharma industry “opaque and dysfunctional,” Minnesota’s attorney general Keith Ellison has introduced a task force to tackle pricing. 

There's more evidence the pricing issue isn't going anywhere and will remain an important topic for voters. In a new poll of 1,000 adults, 44% reported skipping the purchase of at least one medically necessary product sometime in the last year due to price, CNBC reports.  

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