Bennet, Colleagues Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Reduce Prescription Drug Prices

Bill Would Help Drive More Affordable Generics to the Market Faster

Washington, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) reintroduced legislation to lower prescription drug prices. The Ensuring Timely Access to Generics Act would tackle exorbitant prescription costs by increasing competition from generic drugs through better oversight of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) citizen petition process. Helping families afford life-saving prescriptions is crucial to help those at-risk, including those with pre-existing conditions, stay healthy, especially during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“No American should be forced to choose between their medications and paying their bills, but many find themselves facing difficult decisions because of the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs in this country,” said Bennet. “The Ensuring Access to Generics Act would remedy flaws in our drug approval process to increase opportunities for affordable, generic drugs to enter the market, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move this bill forward and drive down the cost of prescription drugs.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the need to improve access to life-saving medications, which help many at-risk Americans stay healthy during this precarious time. Now more than ever, cost should never be a barrier to medical care, including medication,” said Shaheen. “I’m glad to lead this bipartisan effort to help ease the financial strain felt by so many families by bringing more generic drugs to the market, increasing competition and driving down costs. Health care is one of the top issues I hear from Granite Staters, and I’ll continue partnering with Senators across the aisle on common-sense ways to put quality health care within reach for our families."

“Increasing competition lowers the cost of drugs,” said Cassidy. “Driving generics to market faster improves access and saves money for patients and taxpayers.”

“The rising cost of prescription drugs is a problem facing countless American families. Unfortunately, bad actors have been employing anti-competitive tactics to exploit the regulatory process for their own gain,” said Rubio. “Like any other industry, the pharmaceutical market needs competition to keep drug prices fair. This legislation would lower costs by preventing brand name drug companies from abusing the FDA pharmaceutical approval process to delay generic drugs from entering the market.”

The citizen petition process allows interested stakeholders, including drug companies, to bring concerns to the FDA’s attention regarding pending applications. Currently, bad actors exploit this process by filing citizen petitions in order to delay the approval of generic competitors and extend their patent protections. This legislation ensures the FDA’s ability to reject citizen petitions if they believe that the primary purpose of the petition is to delay the approval of an application, thereby increasing competition in the marketplace and lowering costs for patients. The bill would also set a time limit to ensure that citizen petitions are submitted in a timely manner after the petitioning party becomes aware of the information upon which their petition is based. This time limit helps avoid instances where brand name drug manufacturers slow down the FDA review process by filing citizen petitions shortly before a generic drug is set to be reviewed by FDA.

The senators’ bipartisan legislation takes the additional step of requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish procedures for referring a petitioner to the Federal Trade Commission if they have reason to believe a petition was submitted with the primary purposes of delaying the approval of another application. 

Bennet has been an original cosponsor of this legislation since 2019 and has long fought to lower the rising cost of prescription drugs for Coloradans and all Americans. Bennet introduced the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act in 2019 to protect seniors by capping out-of-pocket prescription drug costs in the Medicare program, hold manufacturers accountable by requiring rebates if their drug prices increase faster than the rate of inflation, and increase transparency into practices of Pharmacy Benefit Managers and prices set by manufacturers. Bennet also reintroduced the Medicare-X Choice Act in February, which include provisions that would allow the HHS Secretary to negotiate drug prices under Medicare Part D and a public option established by the legislation.

Bennet has also led his colleagues in an effort to make health care costs more transparent. In May 2019, Bennet and U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) led the bipartisan Senate health care price transparency group in introducing the STOP Surprise Medical Bills Act, legislation to protect patients from surprise bills. The legislation was a product of a nearly year-long effort revising and requesting feedback on draft legislation released in September 2018 by the working group. Bennet and Cassidy formed the working group in March 2018. In December, bipartisan, bicameral agreement on legislation to stop surprise medical billing.

The bill text is available HERE.