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US House Speaker Pelosi unveils plan to lower drug prices

Friday - September 20, 2019 6:20 am , Category : HEALTH
Washington, Sep 20 (IANS) US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has unveiled a long-awaited plan to lower prices for non-prescription drugs, but the proposal could face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The plan, a top priority for the Democrats this year, would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate the prices of up to 250 drugs annually.

The drugs whose prices will be subject to adjustments are those without "a generic or biosimilar competitor on the market," according to a summary of the plan, Xinhua news agency reported.

"The Secretary would use data provided by Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurance to make the determination about aggregate cost, which is a measure of price and volume of sales," the summary, released on Thursday, read.

"The Secretary will negotiate as many drugs as possible each year, with a bare minimum of 25 annually, recognizing the practical capacity and bandwidth constraints on HHS," it added.

Pelosi appeared to be counting on support from the Trump administration to get the bill passed in the Senate.

"We do hope to have White House buy-in because that seems to be the route to getting any votes in the United States Senate," she said at a press conference on Thursday.

"This is an introduction. So much more will be added in the committee process and the public review of it," the congresswoman added.

The plan drew immediate opposition from the Republicans in the House, however. All 24 Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee blasted the plan on Thursday, calling Pelosi's proposal a means "to appease her most extreme members."

"It does not have to be this way; there are bipartisan solutions to bring down prices for patients and create real transparency and accountability for this system," the committee members said.

In the Senate, Chuck Grassley, Republican from Iowa, and Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, proposed an alternative solution which was considered more moderate than Pelosi's.

Grassley tried to rally bipartisan support for the Senate plan, which also met criticism from some Republicans who objected to a cap on price increases in Medicare that the proposed bill would impose.

Although President Donald Trump has expressed frustration over high drug prices, whether he will endorse the House Democrats' plan remains uncertain.

"I don't see how the president could support this bill, because I don't see it lowering the prices or solving the problem," House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy told a press conference on Thursday.

--IANS pgh/