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Horsford, Reed move to address prescription drug prices

WASHINGTON — An issue where political leaders said they could find common ground — lowering prescription drug prices that have soared in recent years — is being addressed by two House lawmakers who filed a bipartisan bill Wednesday modeled after a Nevada law to cut costs of insulin for diabetic patients.

President Donald Trump vowed in his State of the Union address to tackle the problem of skyrocketing drug costs, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Democrat-controlled House would move swiftly to rein in price hikes that make some drugs unaffordable for seniors and working class families.

Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., and Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., filed legislation in the House, styled after a bill signed into law in Nevada in 2017 to keep the cost of insulin down for those with diabetes.

“I’m glad to bring Nevada’s model to the national level,” said Horsford, adding “too many families are being forced to choose between refilling a medication and putting food on the table.”

The Stop the Pharmaceutical Industry from Keeping Drugs Expensive, or SPIKE, Act would require drug manufacturers to publicly justify large price increases and initial prices for high-cost drugs.

Reed said the bill is needed to provide transparency of the cost for drugs and ensure that people are being treated fairly.

“Many Americans with pre-existing conditions face exorbitant costs at the pharmacy counter and deserve to know why they are paying more for their medication,” Reed said.

Horsford and Reed, who both serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, have teamed on the bipartisan solution that they hope can overcome the sharp partisan divide in Congress and be signed into law by a president who has called on lawmakers to curb skyrocketing costs.

The first test will come next week when the bill is marked up by the Ways and Means Committee, where amendments can be made to the legislation to either enhance or imperil its chances of becoming law.

Progressive Democrats have also urged Pelosi to push for more controversial legislation that could draw opposition from Republican lawmakers and the drug lobby concerned about divulging trade secrets in transparency legislation.

The Senate is expected to take up its own legislation seeking a remedy to rising costs this year.

National opinion polls show a top concern of Americans is the rising cost of health care and prescription drug prices.

The SPIKE Act would follow the Nevada model championed by state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, and require drug makers to report detailed information to the Department of Health and Human Services if prices exceed certain thresholds.

Those thresholds: In 2021, a price increase of more than 10 percent, or more than $10,000 in a single year, or 25 percent or more than $25,000 in a three-year period. A launch price of $26,000 would also require justification submitted to the secretary.

Manufacturers of drugs would also have to provide justification to Health and Human Services for a price increase, or high launch price, and that information could include costs to develop, manufacture, license and market the drug.

The SPIKE Act is being filed as manufacturers and insurance providers face increased scrutiny in the House and Senate over rising costs.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., sent letters out this week to several insurers, benefit providers and pharmacies over rising costs of insulin and other drugs.

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations has scheduled a hearing next week to grill insulin makers about recent price hikes.

Health insurer Cigna and its benefits arm, Express Scripts, announced this week that it would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $25 for members of its plans. The average out-of-pocket cost before the cap was $40.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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