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Healthcare Reform: The Families First Prescription Drug Act

"Prescription drug prices are out of control. [Drug companies] contribute massive amounts of money to political people. But I have to tell you: I'm not interested in their money. I don't need their money."

                                                                                    - President Donald Trump

I don’t need drug companies’ money either, and even if I did, I wouldn’t take it. Because I want to restore competitiveness to our system, and not use regulation to protect big corporations.

Americans paid $609 for a box of EpiPens while a family in England paid $70. During the last few years, the cost of insulin in the U.S. rose 300%, and retail prices for 268 of the most common brand name drugs increased 130 times the rate of inflation.

Bottom line: We pay more for prescription drugs than families in every developed country.

Even worse, a quarter of Americans report they are unable to take their medication as prescribed because they cannot afford the cost, and twenty-nine million Americans have no prescription drug coverage at all.

We’re overcharged, plain and simple, which is why the same industry that makes our medicine is the most profitable in America. That’s messed up.

I have a plan to fix this. It’s called the Families First Prescription Drug Act.

But first, I need to give you some important background.

Drug companies accomplish these anti-competitive practices through two deliberate means:

  1. Restrict competition by preventing new products from entering the market.
  2. Conceal price information, making it impossible for patients and doctors to discuss cost-effective alternatives.

To pull this off, the pharmaceutical industry needed a partner, which explains why they contribute more to Congress than any other industry, and give that money to 95 of our 100 senators!

Of those 95 U.S. senators, John Barrasso received the fourth-highest amount. Our senator, representing a small rural state run on agriculture and mining, raked in more money from Big Pharma than nearly every other senator in America.

Big Pharma couldn’t care less about Wyoming’s public lands, the shape of our roads, or the future of wind or coal. They send money to John Barrasso to influence his vote.

And they’ve gotten great return on their investment, by getting congress to go along with anti-free market regulations:

  • We are the only developed country whose government is not permitted to negotiate drug prices! Medicare is required by Congress to pay whatever price a drug company charges.
  • Big Pharma can pay off competitors not to enter the market. “Pay-for-Delay,” in clear violation of normal antitrust laws, artificially inflates the prices we pay for medicine.
  • Drug companies make changes that offer no therapeutic advantage (e.g. changing the coating of the pill) to start the patent clock over again and keep competitors out of their markets (“Product Hopping”).
  • Drug companies routinely refuse to provide generic competitors with sufficient samples of their product, blocking generics from creating a competitive product.
  • Congress prevents government agencies from researching and communicating information to our doctors about the cost effectiveness of different drug alternatives.

These and other practices are approved by our Congress in return for a bag full of money—raising the price of our medicine, inflating profits, and lining the pockets of politicians’ campaigns.

We Republicans worship free enterprise with good reason. This country’s never seen a greater anti-trust crusader than GOP President Teddy Roosevelt. But today our bought-and-paid-for Congress has allowed an illegal web of monopolistic practices to cost Wyoming families thousands of dollars each year, while harming the health of our children and elderly parents.

Within my first six months in office, I will Put Wyoming First by introducing The Families First Prescription Drug Act ending the anti-competitive practices of the pharmaceutical industry. My plan would:

1. Forbid pharmaceutical and healthcare employees from contributing to any federal candidate or candidate’s “Super PAC.” Because of the conflict of interest, restrictions like Rule G-37 prevent certain parties that do business with our government from making political donations. This principle should apply to the pharmaceutical and healthcare services industries, where the federal government is the largest purchaser of their products.

2. Permit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to negotiate drug prices. Like every other industrialized country, our government will be required to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, saving taxpayers money, and creating lower reference pricing for private insurance companies. Medicaid will also be free from the formula-based requirement which incentivizes pharmaceutical companies to raise prices.

3. Requests for extensions of patent protection must show enhanced clinical effectiveness. Under The Families First Prescription Drug Act, for a patent extension, a company must demonstrate clear therapeutic advantage to the consumer.

4. Forbid “Pay for Delay” and “Product Hop” tactics. These tactics, designed to restrict competition, will be outlawed and will extend to non-cash tactics including mergers and acquisitions.

5. Require drug companies to cooperate with the development of generic drugs. In return for patent protection, pharmaceutical companies must cooperate with generic manufacturers 18 months prior to the expiration of a drug patent, to assist in the timely development of biosimilar alternatives.

6. Allow overseas competitors to enter the market when there are limited domestic alternatives. When there are less than two domestic generic drug alternatives, consumers may purchase the same drug from a list of FDA-approved countries (such as Canada, Switzerland, Australia, or England).

7. Provide patients and doctors with pricing transparency and efficacy. As we do with loans and mortgages, The Families First Prescription Drug Act will forbid practices that obscure pricing information from our doctors, and ban hidden pricing through rebates and coupons.

8. Require pharmacists to inform patients about lower-cost alternatives. While doctors and patients together should ultimately decide the best treatment, patients need to be provided with needed information to discuss alternatives with their healthcare providers.

9. Re-authorize the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to consider cost as a central focus. Transparency in cost and drug effectiveness is routine in countries like Germany, Australia and Canada, but to protect Big Pharma, Congress restricted the PCORI research into the costs of comparative treatments. That needs to end.

10. Create a “fast lane” approval for generic drugs. When a patent has expired and there is no generic alternative, the approval process for a generic will have a “fast lane”—maintaining the quality of the approval process but moving approval to the front of the line.

11. Put an end to the practice of “patent clustering.” Pharmaceutical companies routinely create a web of overlapping patents (also called a “patent thicket”) to make it impossible for innovators to introduce a competing product—usurping the intent of our patent laws. The FDA and Congress will guide the U.S. Patent Office in developing improved standards for what qualifies as intellectual property rights for medicine, supporting innovation while thwarting manipulation.

We deserve a senator who will fight to end the monopolistic practices of the pharmaceutical industry. These rip-offs cost Americans an estimated 100 billion dollars every year, leaving us unable to afford the medicines to keep ourselves and our families healthy.

In the 1980’s, while Ronald Reagan was in office, we had a Congress with the courage to stand up to donors. We also had senators with the moral values to put the health of our communities ahead of profits and donors. I am a champion of free markets, which is why when I see monopolistic schemes, I will go after them.  I will put the health of Wyoming families first.

I commit to take a wrecking ball to the anticompetitive tactics of the healthcare industry.

I will use my free-market Republican values to take a wrecking ball to the anti-competitive practices of the pharmaceutical and healthcare insurance industry, so that the children and parents of Wyoming have access to affordable medicine and insurance. We will put the safety and health of our families ahead of donors. - Dave Dodson

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