Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander chaired the second in a series of bipartisan hearings on what goes into the prices Americans pay when picking up the 4.4 billion prescriptions written every year.
“There are many issues that have caused health care spending in this country to grow from consuming nine percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2015,” Senator Alexander said.
“We need to look at all aspects of health care spending – the 15 percent or so we spend on prescription drugs, including retail and prescription drugs administered in hospitals, and the other 85 percent of health care spending, which includes doctors’ visits, surgeries, and medical devices – and ways we can get those costs under control.
“This is the second bipartisan hearing in a series on prescription drug costs to learn the facts on the drug delivery system and the effects on health care costs. This committee has good examples of bipartisan success in the Food and Drug Administration User Fee Agreements and the 21st Century Cures Act, which will help take advantage of a remarkable time in science that is producing amazing discoveries for patients who previously have had no hope. We have drugs that can cure Hepatitis C, keep cancer at bay, and stop a stroke.
“With this innovation comes new challenges in making sure all patients can benefit from these drugs. We have all heard from patients in our states that the costs of new prescription drugs are often too much for them to afford. We also need to make sure that any action we may take does not jeopardize this innovation so patients can continue to see breakthroughs in the research and development of new drugs. As we look at and hope to address the fundamental costs of health care, I hope we can do so in a bipartisan way.”
The committee held the first hearing on drug pricing in June, in response to a bipartisan request led by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Al Franken (D-Mn.), along with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wi.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.).
Next month, the committee will hold a third hearing to hear from Norm Augustine and consider a report he is leading from the National Academy of Sciences. This report is the result of a study called “Ensuring Patient Access to Affordable Drug Therapies.”
Alexander’s opening statement is available here.