House negotiators block push to disclose drug prices on TV; Senate sponsors fume
House Republicans on Thursday blocked a measure that would have forced drug companies to disclose their prices in TV ads, enraging sponsors who said President Trump, influential groups and senators in both parties supported their amendment to a major health-spending bill.
Top Senate appropriators said the provision wasn’t included in the package negotiated by both chambers because too many House conferees considered it controversial and a “poison bill.” They didn’t want a fight over the amendment to blow up the whole agreement.
“We tried to argue that it should be in the bill, but our friends in the House felt differently on this topic,” Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, said.
Earlier this year, the Senate approved $1 million for the Health and Human Services Department to write regulations requiring drug makers to disclose the price of their prescription medications in television ads. Sponsors said if pharmaceutical companies are going to steer viewers toward expensive, brand-name drugs, they should be upfront about what it costs.
It’s unclear what the “price” of the drug would entail, exactly, since few consumers pay the list price on their drugs, given the Byzantine web of rebates and insurance coverage. But sponsors said it would be a real check on the industry the pharmaceutical industry opposes the idea and that Mr. Trump included it in his own drug-pricing proposal.
Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican who co-authored the amendment, said its exclusion on Thursday was an “EMBARRASSING” bow to “BIG PHARMA” at consumers’ expense, using all-caps for emphasis in a Twitter post.
“For some reason, someone on the other side is trying to block this common-sense, truly bipartisan policy to lower drug costs for America’s patients,” his cosponsor, Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said. “When are we going to stand up to Big Pharma and actually do something about sky-high prescription drug prices?”
Mr. Durbin read aloud an old tweet from Mr. Trump that praised the amendment.
Yet he agreed to try again another day, instead of forcing House and Senate conferees to take a roll call on his amendment.
Mr. Durbin said he didn’t want to place Senate negotiators who supported the measure in the awkward position of voting against it to salvage the overall bill.