Members of Congress urge NIH to act on drug prices
More than 50 members of Congress are urging the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use their authority to bring relief to consumers struggling to pay exorbitant drug prices.
A letter to Secretary of HHS Burwell and NIH Director Collins requests the development of official guidelines to discourage drug price gouging. It asserts the Bayh-Dole Act gives the NIH “march-in” rights to introduce generic competition if a patented drug that received federal funding for development is unreasonably priced.
Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Peter Welch (D-VT), who co-chair the newly created Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force, are the letter’s lead signatories.
“When drugs are developed with taxpayer funds, the government can and should act to bring relief from out-of-control drug pricing,” said Rep. Doggett said in a statement. “Soaring drug costs are a widespread problem, not limited to one disease or treatment. There is a difference between earning a profit and profiteering. The Administration should use every tool it has to rein in the practice of pricing a drug at whatever the sick, suffering, or dying will pay.”
House Democrats have been shining a spotlight on the drug pricing issue for months. Democrats from the House Oversight Committee called on Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to subpoena the CEOs of Turing and Valeant Pharmaceuticals and set a bipartisan House hearing on the rising costs of prescription drugs. A hearing date has been set for January 26.
House Democrats held a hearing on drug affordability late last year, as did the Senate Special Committee on Aging. The Department of Health and Human Services held a forum in late November as well but no immediate follow up action has come from either of the hearings or the forum.
Consumers are still waiting for relief. Since legislation to address the drug pricing problem hasn’t moved forward yet in Congress, we’re encouraged by this new strategy of using existing law to make medication more affordable. We’ll be interested to see the NIH response to the letter.
Updated 1/19/16 with House hearing date.