Wyden, Grassley Release Report on Drug Pricing

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have released a report on their investigation into the pricing decision-making by Gilead Sciences, Inc., the manufacturer of the Hepatitis C drug Sovaldi. Sovaldi and its successor Harvoni have drawn widespread attention due to its price of $84,000 for a 12-week treatment. The report is the result of an 18-month long investigation, which found that Gilead priced Sovaldi solely upon maximizing revenue, without consideration for recouping research and development (R&D) costs. “Gilead pursued a calculated scheme for pricing and marketing its Hepatitis C drug based on one primary goal, maximizing revenue, regardless of the human consequences. There was no concrete evidence in emails, meeting minutes or presentations that basic financial matters such as R&D costs…factored into how Gilead set the price,” Senator Wyden said during a press conference on the findings of the investigation. The report outlines how Gilead justified Sovaldi’s high price point based on the price per cure, and with an eye for ensuring a future high price for Harvoni. The report emphasizes that even after underestimating the degree to which the drug’s price would result in access restrictions, Gilead refused to lower the price, and the resulting burden on the Medicare and Medicaid programs was substantial. The report does acknowledge that subsequent entry of competition into the marketplace resulted in lower prices for therapies, but concerns still remain about the high costs for treating people infected with Hepatitis C. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has also opened an investigation into price hikes by two drug companies.

Democrats Hold Hearing on Prescription Drug Pricing

The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee held a special hearing last week on the price of prescription drugs. Sixteen lawmakers attended the hearing, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.). The hearing was largely meant as a symbolic gesture to encourage their Republican colleagues to address the issue of drug prices. Witnesses discussed various aspects of the pharmaceutical industry, including research costs and market exclusivity. While no specific legislative action was advocated for, some members called on the White House to use its executive authority to make an impact on rising pharmaceutical prices. This week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging will also hold a hearing on the subject.

CMS Releases Report on Health Spending Growth Rate

The actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have released their annual report highlighting the rate of growth of health care spending in the United States. Last year, health spending rose to more than $3 trillion, a 5.3 percent increase over the previous year and the largest increase since 2007. Medicaid spending increased at a rate of 11 percent, twice the growth rate of the previous year. Spending on private health insurance also increased by 4.4 percent. Additionally, total spending on prescription medication increased by 12.2 percent. Officials attribute the across the board growth to the rising cost of prescription drugs and an increasing number of individuals entering the insurance marketplaces. The number of uninsured declined by 20 percent, while beneficiary out of pocket spending remained relatively flat.

Upcoming Congressional Meetings and Hearings

House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health hearing titled: “Legislative Hearing on: H.R. 3262; H.R. 3484; H.R. 4056; a draft bill to amend the Veterans’ Benefits Programs Improvement Act of 1991 to authorize VA to sell Pershing Hall; and, VA’s legislative proposal regarding fiscal year 2016 construction projects;” 10:00 a.m.; 334 Cannon Bldg.; December 8

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing titled: “Opioid Abuse in America: Facing the Epidemic and Examining Solutions;” 10:00 a.m., 430 Dirksen Bldg.; December 8

House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing titled: “An Overdue Checkup Part II: Examining the ACA’s State Insurance Marketplaces;” 10:00 a.m., 2322 Rayburn Bldg.; December 8

House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing titled: “Drug Resistant Tuberculosis: The Next Global Health Crisis?”; 2:00 p.m., 2200 Rayburn Bldg.; December 8

House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing titled: “Examining Legislation to Improve Health Care and Treatment;” the bills to be discussed are H.R. 921, the Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act of 2015; H.R. 1209, the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act; H.R. 2713, the Title VIII Nursing Workforce Reauthorization Act; H.R. 3441, the Accurate Education for Prenatal Screenings Act; H.R. 4152, the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act; H.R. 4153, the Educating to Prevent Eating Disorders Act of 2015; 10:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Bldg.; December 9

House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing titled: “Fact Check: An End of Year Review of Accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs;” 10:30 a.m.; 334 Cannon Bldg.; December 9

Senate Special Aging Committee hearing titled: “Sudden Price Spikes in Off-Patent Drugs: Perspectives from the Front Lines;” 2:30 p.m., G-50 Dirksen Bldg.; December 9

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