Members of Congress Scrutinize Sky-rocketing Costs of Generic Drugs


By Michael Rule

Last January, NCPA urged Congress to investigate soaring generic drug prices after a member survey found that acquisition costs for some drugs had increased by more than 1,000%, but that reimbursement to pharmacies did not keep up. This call was recently answered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) who launched an inquiry.

In letters sent to 14 pharmaceutical companies the members wrote in part, “We are conducting an investigation into the recent staggering price increases for generic drugs used to treat everything from common medical conditions to life-threatening illnesses.”

To aid their investigation, Senator Sanders established a page on his web site where patients could submit their personal examples of how these increased costs for generic medications are impacting them. Please encourage your patients to visit http://www.sanders.senate.gov/drug-prices to share their own stories.

Furthermore, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Cummings took the added step of writing to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Burwell, to urge the Obama administration to prevent these increasing costs noting “These huge price increases are affecting the pocketbooks and health of millions of Americans. The rapidly increasing prices being charged for generic drugs is also directly affecting the budgets of Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

NCPA greatly appreciates the efforts of Sen. Sanders and Rep. Cummings to find the root cause of these price spikes, but we also believe Congress must act to ensure that pharmacies are fairly reimbursed while these spikes are occurring so they can continue to provide these medications to their patients. As such, NCPA has endorsed H.R. 4437, the Generic Drug Pricing Transparency Act which would require Medicare plans to update their maximum allowable costs (MAC) lists at least once every seven days so reimbursements more accurately reflect market conditions. This issue is gaining the attention with policymakers as CMS included similar language in their final rule for Part D prescription drug plans (starting in 2016), and 16 states have enacted legislation that requires drug plans to more frequently update their MAC lists.

It is vital that officials resolve these obstacles that interfere with patient access to medications. Please visit the NCPA Pharmacy Access page for additional resources.

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