Durbin Slams Big Pharma On High Cost Of Prescription Drugs In America

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned James Stansel, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) on the high price of prescription drugs in America.  In today’s hearing, Durbin slammed PhRMA for the pharmaceutical industry’s egregious tactics that leads to dramatic price increases for Americans, including patent manipulation to block generic competition, inflationary marketing through direct-to-consumer drug ads, and causing wasteful spending on discarded medications due to excessively large drug vials.  Durbin has introduced bipartisan legislation to address each of these issues.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield in Illinois tells us that the largest single driver in an increase of health insurance premiums is the cost of prescription drugs.  They spend more each year on the cost of prescription drugs than inpatient hospital care,” Durbin said.

Video of Durbin’s remarks in Committee are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here for TV Stations.

In April, Durbin introduced the bipartisan Reforming Evergreening and Manipulation that Extends Drug Years (REMEDY) Act, which aims to remove an incentive for brand-name drug makers to amass follow-on patents that shield their drugs from generic competition.  Specifically, it would narrow the FDA’s 30-month stay of drug approval when a generic applicant challenges the patents covering a brand-name drug, so that this 30-month freeze would only apply to a brand-name drug’s patents on the chemical substance, not for secondary patents such as a pill coating or delivery method.

In March, Durbin introduced the Forcing Limits on Abusive and Tumultuous (FLAT) Drug Prices Act, which aims to prevent pharmaceutical companies from hiking the price of prescription drugs by reducing the government-granted monopoly period for medications if their prices are significantly increased—which would enable lower-cost generic drugs to come to market earlier.

Also in March, Durbin introduced a bipartisan bill that would reduce the egregious wasted spending on discarded medications that are the result of excessively large, single-use drug vials. The Recovering Excessive Funds for Unused and Needless Drugs (REFUND) Act would enable Medicare to recoup money from drug companies who were paid for wasted medications, and provide savings to seniors enrolled in Medicare.

Last year, the Senate passed a bipartisan amendment introduced by Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to the Defense-Labor-HHS-Education appropriations “minibus” package that provides the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with $1 million to implement rules requiring pharmaceutical companies to list prices of their prescription drugs in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertisements.  The amendment helps to empower patients, promote transparency, and lower prescription drug costs.  Unfortunately, the amendment was stripped from the bill during the House-Senate conference process.

In November 2017, Durbin introduced legislation that would require the pharmaceutical industry to provide more information about the cost of drugs in their advertisements.  The Drug-price Transparency in Communications (DTC) Act of 2017 would require drug companies to disclose the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of a prescription medication in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and in marketing to prescribers.