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As Senate Finance Committee advances drug pricing legislation, Carper vows to continue working to bring down costs of drugs like insulin, deliver discounts directly to patients at the pharmacy counter

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) helped to advance the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019, a bipartisan bill that begins to address the challenge of high drug prices by imposing a limit on price hikes in Medicare’s prescription drug program and protecting seniors with the highest out-of-pocket costs. 

Senator Carper helped to secure provisions in the legislation that would increase patient feedback on Medicare coverage of new therapies, improve health outcomes for seniors, and strengthen the market for biosimilar drugs.

At today’s markup in the Finance Committee, Senator Carper also highlighted several common sense, bipartisan provisions of his that could lower drug costs for Delawareans. Those proposals included: 

  • Holding pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), big pharmaceutical companies and insurers accountable for surging insulin prices by incentivizing reductions in list prices. Earlier this week, Senator Carper cosponsored bipartisan legislation, the Insulin Price Reduction Act, that would combat skyrocketing insulin prices and hold health care middlemen accountable.  
  • Delivering discounts on prescription drugs directly to patients at the pharmacy counter, rather than giving those rebates to drug companies

As this legislation continues to make its way through the Senate, Senator Carper vowed to keep working with his colleagues to find ways to include additional common sense, cost-saving solutions in the final bill. A full statement from Senator Carper on today’s Finance Committee markup is available below: 

“It’s been said that ‘bipartisan solutions are always the lasting ones.’ Now, that is where we are starting, and it is my hope that is how we finish. I want to commend Senators Grassley and Wyden and their staffs for their leadership and my staff for working together to come up with a thoughtful, bipartisan bill that will help bring down the price of drug prices for Americans. The preamble of the Constitution of our country begins with these words, ‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union.' It doesn’t say ‘in order to form a perfect union’, it says ‘a more perfect union.’ Their idea was what we would do is make progress, year after year, generation after generation, toward perfection.

“Medicare was a big step on that road to perfection, but it wasn’t perfect. Years later, Medicare Part D was added, which helped a lot, but it wasn’t perfect. Today, we have an opportunity to improve on that, and we need to. Time and again, I hear from Delawareans about the high costs of health care, including the exorbitant costs of the life-saving medications that they need. Each and every one of us has a loved one who relies on life-saving, and often much too expensive, prescription drugs. Prescription drugs represent one dollar out of every five that Medicare beneficiaries spend. One out of every five. In fact, America has the most expensive pharmaceuticals in the world. Today, far too many Americans, and those who care for them, are forced to make the impossible decision of choosing between putting food on the table and paying for the drugs that they need, such as insulin or a cancer medication. That is not acceptable. On behalf of American patients, we can and we must do better.

“When I evaluate legislation that addresses the issue of drug pricing, I ask a few simple questions. Is the bill before us fair and does it help people who need help the most? Second, does the approach we are going to take make the situation more complex or less complex? Third, does it allow market forces to work and, where they’re not working, does it provide reasonable alternatives? Next, what is the impact on our growing budget deficit? And lastly, does this legislation preserve the incentives for the research that is needed to drive innovation and develop new, life-saving drugs? Throughout this debate, I have focused on solutions that will lower drug costs for patients and their families, save taxpayer dollars, and preserve investment in new and better cures. I believe that the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019 will begin to achieve these goals. And while the advancement of this legislation is good news, we undoubtedly have more work to do. 

“In the days and weeks ahead, I look forward to offering more ways to bring down drug prices for Delawareans and Americans across the country. First, a common sense, practical solution like Senator Shaheen’s Insulin Price Reduction Act that I cosponsored, which would ensure that insulin is affordable for all Americans. Another common sense, bipartisan solution would deliver discounts directly to patients at the pharmacy counter, rather than having these rebates go to drug companies and trickle down to consumers. This change, recently called a ‘home run’ solution by Secretary Azar, would also inject badly needed transparency into our complicated drug pricing system. These are just some of the ways we can begin to tackle a big issue. Winston Churchill famously said, ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’ For now, I am encouraged by these positive steps and hopeful that, together, we can continue to push for real results that consumers can feel.”