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Centrist Democrats propose scaled-back option to lower drug prices

By Don Jacobson
Centrist Democrats propose scaled-back option to lower drug prices
Under the proposal, the government could negotiate drug prices only in certain circumstances, rather than broadly as now proposed in the House's $3.5 trillion spending package. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 10 (UPI) -- A pair of centrist Democratic lawmakers on Friday offered an alternative to efforts by House leadership to allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical industry.

Reps. Scott Peters, D-Calif., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., proposed a scaled-back plan under which the government could negotiate drug prices only in certain circumstances, rather than broadly as now proposed in H.R. 3, which is included in the House leaders' $3.5 trillion spending package.

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The majority of Democrats back efforts by Senate budget committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who seeks to save more than $600 billion in drug costs. The plan would allow Medicare to negotiate to cap prices for certain brand-name drugs that don't have generic competition.

The effort has produced a split among Democrats, particularly with centrists who agree with the pharmaceutical industry's position that price controls would "stifle innovation" and reduce funds available for research and development.

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A summary of the competing bill offered by Peters and Schrader Friday says the alternative "preserves innovation" by limiting Medicare to negotiate drug prices only to "products that no longer have exclusivity and for which there is no competition on the market."

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The bill illustrates disagreements within the party over how to address the high cost of prescription drugs and comes after a group of 10 moderate Democrats last month delayed a procedural vote on the $3.5 trillion economic expansion plan.

Peters has said that he supports lowering drug costs, but opposes how H.R. 3 bases them on prices in other countries.

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"Rep. Peters will insist on an alternative to international reference pricing if H.R. 3 is used as the framework to lower drug costs within reconciliation," a spokesperson for Peters told Bloomberg last month. "If it is included, he has stated clearly that he will vote 'no' [on] the final reconciliation package."

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