US Senate to block Democrats’ drug-pricing bill

Washington, Sep 20 : US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday unveiled a long-awaited plan to cut prices for prescription drugs, but the proposed bill was adamantly opposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who vowed not to take it to the floor.

The plan, a top priority for Democrats this year, would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate the price of up to 250 drugs annually and take reference from data provided by Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial insurance in determining the aggregate cost, according to a legislative summary distributed to lawmakers.

The drugs whose prices will be subject to adjustments are those without “a generic or biosimilar competitor on the market”, it said.

In addition, pharmaceutical companies that refuse to negotiate or fail to reach a pricing agreement with the government will be fined, Xinhua news agency reported.

The penalty starts at 65 per cent of the gross sales of the drug in question and will increase by 10 per cent each quarter a manufacturer is out of compliance, according to the summary.

Pelosi on Thursday appeared to be counting on support from the administration of President Donald Trump to get the proposed legislation passed in the Senate.

“We do hope to have White House buy-in because that seems to be the route to getting any votes in the US Senate,” she said at a press conference.

While Trump welcomed Pelosi’s announcement by tweeting later in the day that “it’s great to see Speaker Pelosi’s bill today”, McConnell said he will block the proposed legislation in his chamber.

The Kentucky Republican referred to the plan as “price controls” that “will do a lot of left-wing damage to the healthcare system, and of course we’re not going to be calling up a bill like that”, McConnell said.

Pelosi fought back by calling McConnell the biggest impediment to resolving the issue.

The plan also drew immediate opposition from Republicans in the House. All 24 Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee blasted the plan on Thursday, calling Pelosi’s proposal a means “to appease her most extreme members”.

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