HEALTH

Pallone unveils series of bills aimed at lowering prescription drug costs

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

Pharmacist Gerard Bargoud says one of his main jobs is to figure out how to make prescription drugs more affordable for patients.

“Either change the drug, change the dose, make it in a more affordable way for them to take,” he said.

“Many elder New Jerseyans have chronic conditions […] and if the costs are making it impossible to get their medicine, their health is compromised, they can’t afford food, they can’t afford other necessities of life,” said AARP New Jersey Director of Advocacy Evelyn Liebman.

Congressman Frank Pallone is pushing a group of seven bills that would make generics more available to lower the cost of prescriptions.

“I should point out that both President Trump and many Republicans in Congress have said that they support the measures that I’m bringing today,” Pallone said.

One of the bills looks to make it illegal for drug companies to pay manufacturers of generics to not develop the drugs. It’s a practice known as pay for delay.

“Pay for delay agreements prohibit generic entry for an average of nearly 17 months longer than patent settlement agreements without such payments,” Liebman said. “In the meantime, consumers must continue paying brand name drug prices, which can be as much as 85 percent higher than the prices for their generic drug counterparts.”

“So they create an almost monopolistic situation and then the brand name keeps selling their drug because the generic basically decides not to do it because they’re getting paid not to,” Pallone said.

Another bill aims to get generic medications to market faster. Pallone says companies try to delay giving the manufacturers of generic drugs formulas after a patent expires as a way to slow down the process of developing cheaper drugs.

The Creates Act would put an end to that by allowing federal courts to step in.

“You may say you’re regulating, but you’re regulating the market so there’s not a monopoly so competition exists,” Pallone said.

The group of bills will be moving through the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the coming weeks. Pallone says this is one step in bringing prices down. He says the next step for the committee is to give Medicare the ability to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, which it currently can’t do.