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Klobuchar: Drug Price Reforms Have Many Potential Vehicles

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Monday laid out several paths forward for drug price legislation, though she said any movement could be dependent on a “trigger moment.”

Possible vehicles, she said, include the prescription drug user fee agreement that must be passed next year, the 21st Century Cures Act, tax reform and reforms to the Affordable Care Act. Legislation could also pass as a package of pharmaceutical price reforms.

Some legislation with a good chance of moving, she said, are bipartisan bills encouraging generic competition on the marketplace. One particular bill, which she co-sponsors with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would crack down on “pay for delay,” or the practice of paying generic drug makers to keep their products off the market.

“But what’s been really frustrating is we need more than three or four people that are pushing for a vote,” Klobuchar said. “So what I think what we need is a trigger moment where this thing comes in the public is focused on the fact that we need to have a vote and we need to hold people accountable for their votes on this. Otherwise it just becomes a plaything for industry.”

She was speaking at a drug pricing event sponsored by the Center for American Progress, which also released a set of policy proposals on Monday establishing a negotiation progress for Medicare and private payers.

Klobuchar has taken the lead in calling for pharmaceutical pricing reform. She has been particularly vocal on the EpiPen controversy of the last few weeks. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the device, raised the price of a pack of two from less than $100 in 2007 to more than $600 currently, sparking bipartisan outrage among lawmakers.

Though it’s widely expected that any serious debate over drug pricing policy will be pushed into 2017, the sponsors of the Cures bill are making a heavy push for the legislation to pass after the November elections. While the overall goal of Cures is to foster new medical innovation, it contains several provisions related to encouraging generic competition. Its sponsors tout it as one way to chip away at the drug price problem.

Klobuchar said if Congress is finally about to tackle Obamacare from a bipartisan perspective, drug prices could become part of that discussion as they contribute to rising premiums.

“You could have a package of ACA reforms trying to get at the fact we’ve seen increases in pharma prices, increases in other things,” she said. “And while every time we try to do it the Republicans just want to repeal the whole ACA, maybe after this charming presidential election comes to a conclusion, there will be some actual work done to perfect and make changers to the ACA.”