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House of Representatives to begin debate on lowering prescription drug prices

Posted at 10:34 PM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 00:34:20-05

The House of Representatives begins debate Wednesday on a bill its supporters say will drastically reduce the cost of 250 of the most expensive medicines on the market.

The Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 allows Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies.

The non-partisan congressional budget office projects the bill could result in savings for patients of approximately 500-billion dollars within ten years.

Arizona Congressman Tom O'Halleran (D-Flagstaff) supports the bill. "Hardworking Arizonans are sick and tired of their drug prices skyrocketing year after year," he says. "H.R. 3 will cap out-of-pocket drug expenses for seniors and improve their access to lower-cost generic drugs."

The legislation is not without its critics. Among them Arizona Congressman David Schweikert (R-Scottsdale).

Schweikert says if the bill becomes law, investments in new life-saving drugs, like a vaccine for cancer, could potentially slow to a crawl. Because drug companies will have less incentives to spend money on risky trials that often fail.

"Do we have a moral obligation to at least not rip this opportunity away?" Schwiekert said recently on the floor of the House. "My fear is bills like H.R. 3 do incredible violence to that future that is incredibly optimistic."

There are competing bills in the Senate, including the Affordable Prescriptions for Patients Act. A bi-partisan proposal which Arizona Senator Martha McSally is a co-sponsor. The bill encourages competition, but it does not allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

The House is expected to vote on the bill Thursday. Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego and Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick have joined O'Halleran in announcing they support the legislation.