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ICYMI: U.S. House Votes 403-0 to Pass Spanberger’s Bill to Help Lower Drug Costs for Central Virginia Seniors & Families

Yesterday, the U.S. House Passed the Congresswoman’s Bipartisan Bill to Require Greater Transparency from Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs)

Washington, October 29, 2019

**VIDEO/AUDIO: Ahead of Bill’s Passage, Spanberger Calls for U.S. House to Take Action to Lower Drug Costs for All Americans**

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger’s bill to bring greater transparency to prescription drug negotiations and help tackle the prescription drug affordability crisis in Central Virginia and across the country.

In 2016, PBMs—the middlemen between pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurers, and patients—took in an estimated $22.6 billion in gross profits as consumer drug costs skyrocketed. And right now, the three largest PBMs in the United States—Express Scripts, CVS Caremark, and Optum Rx—control nearly three-quarters of the U.S. prescription drug supply chain. However, American patients and pharmacists are unable to see the rebates and discounts received by powerful PBMs, meaning consumers are unable to learn more about how PBMs could be triggering rising drug prices and increasing their out-of-pocket costs.

The Spanberger-led Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts Act would help hold PBMs accountable by requiring PBMs to report their aggregate rebates, discounts, and other price concessions for prescription drugs to a public website. This heightened level of market transparency would help patients, pharmacists, employees, and business owners better understand and compare the discounts PBMs receive from drug manufacturers.

Yesterday, Spanberger spoke on the floor of the U.S. House to call on her colleagues to support and pass her bipartisan bill. During her speech, she highlighted the consistent concerns of Central Virginians about the rising cost of prescription drugs. Additionally, she pointed to her August 2019 prescription drug roundtable in Henrico County, where she heard concerns from patients and pharmacists about the influence of PBMs on the prescription drug marketplace.

Click here to watch the full video of her remarks. A full transcript of her remarks is provided below:

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I rise in support of my bill, H.R. 2115—the Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts Act.

First, I’d like to thank my colleagues Congressman Arrington and Congressman Boyle for their partnership on this bipartisan legislation. I thank Congresswoman Slotkin for her cooperation and commitment to our efforts, and I thank Congresswoman Schakowsky for her work here today.

If we are going to make substantial, long-term progress on the issue of prescription drugs, we can’t be afraid to work in a bipartisan manner–and I thank my colleagues for joining me in this fight. I would also like to thank Chairmen Pallone and Neal for their dedicated work to tackling prescription drug costs and the Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means Committees for voting to advance our bill and making this floor vote possible.

This bipartisan bill would help address the number-one concern facing Central Virginia’s working families, chronically-ill, and seniors—the rising cost of healthcare.

In every community in the Seventh District of Virginia—from Chesterfield to Culpeper, the extremely personal effects of rising prescription drug costs are on full display. Whether at a coffee shop, a town hall, or a street fair, I always hear yet another heartbreaking story of from a mother, father, grandparent, or young adult struggling to afford their prescription drugs. People genuinely feel helpless, and it’s due to no fault of their own.

In many cases, steep costs have forced them to make nearly-impossible decisions. A costly, lifesaving medication could mean buying fewer groceries for their family. It could mean reluctantly selling their home. And it could mean saving less—or nothing at all—for their retirement or their kids’ education.

And even for those who are healthy, there’s an overwhelming fear: “What if I get sick—or what if a loved one gets sick—and we can’t afford the medication?”

Back in August, I held a roundtable with patients, pharmacists, and healthcare providers in Henrico County to discuss this community-wide issue. Together, we talked about the financial challenges caused by overpriced drugs. But we also discussed the issue of pharmacy benefit managers, or—"PBMs.”

To those in the healthcare industry, PBMs are known as the middlemen between drug makers, health insurers, and pharmacies.

But for many Americans, PBMs remain a mysterious player within the prescription drug marketplace. Operating in the murky world of drug negotiation, there are few windows into the value of the rebates and discounts PBMs receive from drug companies. Effectively, they’re a black box in the long supply chain from the pharmaceutical company to the patient.

During our roundtable in Henrico, one local pharmacist described how PBMs continue to enjoy record profits thanks to the pharmaceutical industry—while patients and pharmacists get stuck with unsustainable costs.

Right now, the three largest PBMs control three-quarters of the U.S. prescription drug market.

There seems to be little transparency, and where there’s zero transparency, there is rarely room for accountability or oversight.

If we don’t cast sunlight into this black box, patients will continue to be left in the dark about the effect of PBMs on the prices of specific drugs.

The Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts Act would be a step towards bringing greater transparency to this broken system.

The principle behind my bill is simple—let’s take the information already provided to the federal government, and let’s make it public.

PBMs are already required to declare rebate data, discounts, and generic dispensing rates to HHS. But under my bill, this information would be posted publicly for the general public to see.

But beyond the principle of my bill, the goal is even simpler—lowering drug costs for our neighbors.

By sharing this information online with American consumers and businesses, we would give seniors, families, and pharmacists a better sense of how PBMs could be influencing excessive prices. And we would start to address one of the root causes of our prescription drug affordability crisis.

In Central Virginia and across the country, families should not be racked by constant uneasiness about their financial well-being, simply due to rising drug costs. And they shouldn’t be forced to silently accept the undisclosed results of PBM negotiations that could be bankrupting them.

We need to show the American people that we want to see progress on this vital economic issue—that we are hearing their stories, seeing the problems that exist, and actually moving to reform a prescription drug marketplace that too often seems to be working against the best interests of American patients.

Today, I call on my colleagues to pass the Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts Act, because we are long overdue for meaningful actions that can turn the tide.

I yield back.

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Spanberger introduced her legislation earlier this year alongside U.S. Representatives Jodey Arrington (R-TX-19) and Brendan Boyle (D-PA-02). The bipartisan bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ-02), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-08), and Van Taylor (R-TX-03).

The Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts Act is endorsed by the Blue Dog Coalition and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

Click here to read the full bill text, and click here to read a summary of the bill.

BACKGROUND

Spanberger’s effort to hold PBMs accountable builds on her work in the U.S. House to address the prescription drug affordability crisis, spur competition in the prescription drug industry, and increase transparency in drug pricing, including:

  • Stopping practices that block generic alternatives from entering the consumer market. Last week, Spanberger introduced the bipartisan Biologic Patent Transparency Act, which would take a first step in stopping the practice of “patent gaming” and would seek to level the playing field for biosimilar drugs.
  • Giving Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices. In January 2019, she helped introduce the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, which would authorize HHS to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical providers within Medicare Part D to help lower costs.
  • Addressing additional factors that impact the prices of prescription drugs. Earlier this year, Spanberger helped introduce and pass landmark campaign finance and ethics reform legislation that would strengthen transparency in the U.S. political system and limit the influence of special interests—including pharmaceutical companies. During a press conference prior to the passage of the legislation, she shared the story of Central Virginians concerned about rising prescription drug prices—and she stressed why increased transparency would restore faith in the democratic process and the ability of Members of Congress to effect change on these issues. Click here to watch the full press conference.

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