Senate Hearing Scheduled on Generic Drug Price Spikes

By Kevin Schweers

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, announced that his panel will hold a hearing on Nov. 20 to “explore why the costs of certain generic drugs are skyrocketing.” NCPA appreciates the subcommittee’s work and will continue to support their efforts to address this issue.

chart“We’ve got to get to the bottom of these enormous price increases,” Sanders said in announcing the hearing. The subcommittee is part of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (or HELP). The announcement came soon after it was reported that the Department of Justice is also investigating the matter.

Approximately one year ago community pharmacies began noticing a rash of dramatic price increases for many common generic drugs. NCPA surveyed its members and documented that prices for many generic drugs are skyrocketing by 1,000% or more virtually overnight.

Pharmacists said the trend forces some seniors into their Medicare drug plan’s coverage gap or “donut hole” sooner and that other patients forego their medication altogether.

Small business community pharmacies are negatively impacted as well. Insurance middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) may wait months to update reimbursement rates. That leaves independent community pharmacies with losses of $40 to $100 or more per prescription. Such losses are unsustainable for community pharmacies or any other small business.

Earlier this year, NCPA encouraged Congress to investigate this problem and we are encouraged that lawmakers are dedicating time to this important issue. In addition to the patient health and access issues, community pharmacists deserve to be fairly reimbursed for the prescription drugs and critical medication counseling that they provide.

Below is a list of senators who serve on the subcommittee. If you live in their state, please consider contacting your senator and urging him or her to attend the hearing and speak up for patients and community pharmacists in your state.

Democrats by Rank

  • Bernard Sanders (I) (VT)
  • Barbara A. Mikulski (MD)
  • Kay R. Hagan (NC)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
  • Tammy Baldwin (WI)
  • Christopher S. Murphy (CT)
  • Elizabeth Warren (MA)
  • Tom Harkin (IA) (ex officio)

Republicans by Rank

  • Richard Burr (NC)
  • Pat Roberts (KS)
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK)
  • Michael Enzi (WY)
  • Mark Kirk (IL)
  • Lamar Alexander (TN) (ex officio)

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