On Wednesday, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved three bills to stop drugmakers from increasing drug prices and fending off competition, according to Reuters.
One of those bills will ban the tactics of drugmakers that pay generic companies to block or delay the introduction of cheaper versions of their medicines in the market.
The committee’s chairman Jerrold Nadler said, “The Congressional Budget Office had estimated that banning so-called pay-for-delay patent deals used to stall generic competition – the subject of one of the bills – would save Americans more than half a billion dollars over 10 years.”
The members and lawmakers of the House and Senate said they had introduced the bills in order to lower the cost of prescription drugs for Americans.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to enable the Federal Trade Commission to ban sham citizen petitions, in which drug companies petition the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about a generic company seeking approval for a rival drug with the goal of delaying its market entry, according to the Reuters.
Once generic drugs reach the market, their brand-name version can quickly lose more than 80% of their sales revenue. Generic drugs are 80% to 85% cheaper than their branded counterparts.
The committee members also approved a measure to stop “product hopping,” a practice that is intended to combat generic competition and preserve monopoly profits.
By product hopping, a brand drug company with its product nearing the patent expiration works to move patients to a reformulation of the drug that has longer exclusivity.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measures in July, all on a voice vote,” according to Reuters.
Today, the House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the last measure, which would make it easier to bring biosimilars to the market. Biosimilars are the cheaper versions of expensive biotech drugs, which cannot be exactly duplicated, unlike pills.
Meanwhile, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), a group that focuses on issues affecting those over the age of 50, has been fighting to convince Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs with manufacturers.
The group has even introduced a Fair Drug Prices campaign in which it has asked older individuals to share their prescription drug receipts so it can show policymakers the amount people are paying for their prescriptions.
Americans need generic drugs. Most people are putting their health at risk by not refilling their prescriptions due to high drug prices. A Gallup survey has found that around 23% of people could not afford to fill a prescription drug at least once in the past 12 months.