November 13,2019

Grassley on the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act

NOTE: Senator Chuck Grassley delivered a colloquy on the floor of the United States Senate this afternoon with Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Her speech, which followed Grassley’s, can be found here.

Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Finance Committee
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
I’m here to talk about an issue that unites Americans.
I often point out Washington is an island surrounded by reality. Here inside the Beltway, people are obsessed with partisan impeachment proceedings. Morning, noon and night, the relentless effort to unseat the president of the United States is a toxic strain of Potomac Fever infecting Capitol Hill.
If only Congress would channel every waking minute to fix problems in the real world.
Let me provide a reality check. For people living in the real world, the impeachment inquiry is not what keeps Americans up at night. It’s not what wakes up moms and dads, worried sick about paying for their child’s insulin. It’s not what drains the pocketbooks of seniors, or takes a big bite out of people’s paychecks.
The issue that unites Americans from Maine, to Iowa and Oregon, is the sky-high prices that Americans – and the taxpaying public – are paying for prescription medicine.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m working to fix what’s broken in the drug supply chain. In February, we called the heads of Big Pharma to testify before the committee. Next, we heard from the largest Pharmacy Benefit Managers to examine rebates and unravel the pricing supply chain. There was an awful lot of finger pointing about the soaring drug prices Americans pay for pharmaceuticals. There’s too much secrecy and not enough accountability.
When drug prices grow by leaps and bounds, year after year, it’s time to look under the hood, kick the tires along the drug supply chain and check the gauge on competition. Why in the world is insulin, for example, a drug that’s been on the market for nearly 100 years, doubling and tripling in price for patients in the United States?
We’ve gotten lots of feedback from patient advocates, health care providers and free market proponents. The push back from Big Pharma reveals that we’re on to something. Congress needs to take its foot off the brake. It’s time to deliver real savings. It’s time to pass reforms that will cut prescription drug costs for the American people.
Some of my colleagues may require a more blunt call to action. So, I’ll use a two-by-four angle. Join us and score a win for the American people. Otherwise, do nothing and risk being on the losing side of the ballot box next November.
At my county meetings, I hear the same message, from people all across the state. They have family members and neighbors who struggle to pay for prescription medicines to manage chronic health conditions and treat diseases.
Thanks to breakthrough treatments and cures, Americans are living longer, healthier lives. Many are beating the odds of a diagnosis that would have been a death sentence a generation ago. However, if a loved one is diagnosed with MS, or diabetes or Cystic Fibrosis, no miracle cure will help if Americans can’t afford to pay for their medicine. And it won’t help seniors if sky-high prices drain taxpayer-financed health programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid. Soaring drug prices are forcing too many Americans to skimp on other necessities or even ration their doses.
Now, I just mentioned Cystic Fibrosis. Last month, the FDA approved a promising new treatment for this progressive genetic disorder. CF impacts about 30,000 Americans. There’s nothing parents won’t do to advocate for their child living with this condition. That’s how I met one family from Iowa a few years ago. That’s when I launched the bipartisan Senate Caucus on Cystic Fibrosis, to add my voice for awareness and advocacy.
Now, I’m told the price tag for the new drug is more than $300,000 per patient, per year. Without a doubt, this drug raises the roof of hope for tens of thousands of families. It also raises a red flag about drug prices. If prices keep going through the roof, year after year, how will Americans who depend on prescription medicines afford them?
America’s drug pricing regime is broken. It requires reform to sustain fiscal sustainability and steer incubation and innovation forward. It needs more transparency, better incentives and real competition to drive down prices.
We have our work cut out for us. Big Pharma doesn’t want its pipeline to the federal treasury tightened. And they’ll spend Big Money to scare people away from reasonable solutions that will deliver real savings and get the best deal for taxpayers.
In July, Ranking Member Wyden and I secured broad, bipartisan support in the Finance Committee. Our bill would save taxpayers more than $100 billion. We cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors, saving their households more than $30 billion.
We’ve fine-tuned and improved our bill to gain more momentum and more support. I see my good friend from Maine, Senator Collins, is here. She’s helping lead the fight to reduce drug prices.
We’ve worked together on many issues. As former and current chairs of the Special Committee on Aging, we’re committed to help older Americans lead healthier, productive lives. We also share a top priority not to miss a vote. While I might have a longer voting streak, Susan hasn’t missed a single roll call vote since her first day on the job in 1997.
Senator Collins is one of those rare lawmakers who doesn’t care who gets the credit, as long as we’re doing the right thing. The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act is the right thing to do. And it’s time for Congress to do the right thing.