Rep. Greg Stanton today voted to advance four bipartisan bills to lower the high prices consumers pay for prescription drugs during a House Judiciary Committee markup.
Specifically, the bills aim to improve competition and innovation in the development and sale of pharmaceuticals and improve access to high-quality, affordable treatments for patients.
“Soaring prescription drug costs set by Big Pharma continue to hurt Arizonans—especially seniors—and too often prevents them from receiving the care they deserve,” said Stanton, who refused to take contributions from drug companies during his run for Congress. “These bills are an important step to encourage competition, prevent price-gouging at the expense of patients, and make life-saving medicines more affordable.”
Specifically, the Committee advanced:
• H.R. 2873, the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Promoting Competition Act, would prohibit “product hopping,” an anticompetitive practice by which branded drug manufacturers seek to extend their market exclusivity on an expiring patented drug by switching doctors and patients from the old version of the drug to a new version. By addressing this abusive delay tactic, the bill would aggressively lower drug prices through competition by generics and biosimilars without having an impact on the effectiveness or safety of prescription drugs.
• H.R. 2884, the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Through Improvements to Patent Litigation Act, is aimed at lowering drug prices for a particularly high-cost type of prescription drug called a “biologic” by helping to facilitate the entry of generic versions of such drugs, or “biosimilars.” This bill addresses a variation on product hopping, referred to as “patent thicketing”—a practice of some original manufacturers to strategically obtain a large number of patents under circumstances suggesting that the true goal may be to stall generic competition. Such patent thicketing presents a challenge for a biosimilar applicant to realistically enter the market. H.R. 2884 would limit the number of patents that can be asserted to protect a single biologic drug.
• H.R. 2883, the Stop Significant and Time-wasting Abuse Limiting Legitimate Innovation of New Generics Act or the “Stop STALLING Act,” targets an abusive delay tactic that branded drug companies use to block generic competitors from entering the market. This delay tactic—also called citizen petition abuse—sets off a chain reaction of higher drug prices, less competition, and fewer innovative drugs. The Stop Stalling Access to Affordable Medications Act ends this practice by prohibiting the use of sham petitions to block generic entry. This legislation strengthens the ability of the Commission to challenge citizen petition abuse in court—striking the right balance by deterring anticompetitive delays while protecting the legitimate use of citizen petitions.
• H.R. 2891, the “Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act, strengthens the Federal Trade Commission’s ability to challenge anticompetitive pay-for-delay agreements in court. Pay-for delay agreements occur when a brand-name pharmaceutical drug company pays a competitor to keep a generic or biosimilar version of its drug off the market as part of a patent settlement. These deals delay access to cost-saving generic and biosimilar drugs and cost consumers and the government billions of dollars in higher prescription drug costs. Under the bill, a pay-for-delay agreement is presumed illegal unless the drug companies involved can convince a judge by clear and convincing evidence that the agreement is pro-competitive.
The bills now head to the full House for consideration.