House and Senate Democrats Introduce Three Bills to Lower Drug Prices

March 26, 2021

Senator Sanders (I-VT) and more than two dozen colleagues introduced sweeping legislation that would likely shift substantial costs of non-prescription medications to employers and consumers in an attempt to reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the United States.

The package of bills includes: 

  • The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act (S. 102to peg the price of prescription drugs in the United States to the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan (a.k.a., international pricing);

  • The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act (S. 99) to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D; and

  • The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act (S. 97) to allow patients, pharmacists, and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.

Cost shift to employers and non-prescription medications:  Under the bills, Medicare’s negotiated drug prices would not be available to employers; the international pricing regime does not cover non-prescription medications, and it is unclear if Canada and other countries will allow the export of the drugs to the U.S.

Attached to infrastructure bill?  Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats are discussing adding a provision to upcoming infrastructure legislation that would let the federal government negotiate drug prices and would only require 51 votes in the Senate.  Last year, the House passed H.R. 3 which would enable Medicare to negotiate drug prices and enable employer plans to have access to those prices.

Some experts disagree on the benefits of H.R. 3, with the Congressional Budget Office projecting 8 to 15 fewer new drugs would be brought to market over the next 10 years.

Outlook:  It’s quite possible the infrastructure bill will include something on drug prices.  The Association will be lobbying Congress to eliminate any potential cost shifting to employer health plans that would drive up employer costs.