HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Drug Bill shows limits to Democrat power

House Democrats are set to pass the most far-reaching drug pricing legislation in decades this week. It will only be a fraction of what many of you wanted.

The measure on climate change, inflation and health care, which the Senate passed in a party-line vote on Sunday, was the result of nearly a year of compromise and negotiation, lawmakers say. The drug pricing portions faced opposing camps of Democrats: one that wanted it to cover as many people and drugs as possible and another that wanted to narrow its scope to protect the drug industry.

Some popular provisions of the package were also cut through the Senate budget process, leaving important aspects of the bill out of private health insurance coverage. The legislation slated to reach President Joe Biden’s desk is largely focused on what seniors pay for drugs — which many supporters say is just a first step in tackling high prices.

“This is years and years overdue, and still many millions of Americans remain excluded from this legislation, and it is imperative that we do more,” said Christopher Morten, a professor at Columbia Law School who has worked with drug pricing advocates.

But the legislation could be the last major action by Congress on drug pricing in the near future. Democrats face a difficult midterm election and the prospect of losing their majority in at least one chamber of Congress, making it unlikely they can pass follow-up legislation in the next two years.

And not all Democrats want to do more. “What we have is a good balance that allows the private sector to continue to develop these cures and provide relief to seniors,” Rep said. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), representing a district in San Diego where US biotech and pharmaceutical companies are among the largest employers. San Diego is home to offices of Pfizer, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Genentech of Roche AG, among other large companies. Read more from Alex Ruoff.

Pharma Lobby Prepares Legal Firepower: Regulations to lower prescription drug prices will inevitably be challenged by drug companies even if they are yet to come into effect, lawyers say. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America has already strongly opposed the drug negotiation provision. President and CEO Stephen Ubl said in a statement that this will “result in fewer new cures and treatments for patients battling cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.”

“No one should be surprised that there will be litigation,” Rachel Sachs, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who studies drug pricing, said. “The pharmaceutical industry has sued to challenge very mundane government transparency laws. Absolutely, that’s the kind of thing they’ll contest.” Shira Stein has more.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington [email protected]

To contact the publisher responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at [email protected]

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