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Friday, July 12, 2019 1:00 am

Braun to keep pushing to end drug rebates

Wants to end 'middlemen' payments

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said Thursday he will continue to pursue the elimination of drug manufacturer rebates given to health care “middlemen” after President Donald Trump withdrew his plan to issue an administrative rule to that effect.

“Nobody is working harder than President Trump to lower the cost of health care, but the administration's decision today to allow the corrupt practice of middlemen negotiators pocketing patients' money through rebates is a clear victory for big health care and a loss for patients,” Braun, R-Ind., said in a statement.

“This fight is not over, and I will continue to push my legislation that forces these savings to be directly passed onto consumers,” he said.

Braun in March introduced the Drug Price Transparency Act, which would prohibit third-party administrators of prescription drug programs – known as pharmacy benefit managers – from receiving rebates or price reductions from pharmaceutical companies. Instead, any reductions would have to go to consumers, Braun's measure stipulates.

He has said his bill would lower drug prices for consumers. The White House had said the same thing in January about its plan to eliminate middleman drug rebates for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older. 

But the White House announced Thursday that Trump had withdrawn his proposed rule. The Associated Press reported that the administration reversed course after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the plan would have cost Medicare $177 billion over 10 years by increasing insurance premiums.

Braun disputed the CBO figure.

“CBO is wrong in that it fails to account for the lower cost of prescription drugs that consumers will have access to if this rule is implemented,” he said in a statement to The Journal Gazette. 

The first-year senator from Jasper said the CBO has not provided an estimated cost for his legislation, which Braun said “would bring down drug costs immediately and significantly if it were to become law.” 

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the Trump administration would turn its focus to prescription drug legislation before Congress, AP reported.

“The Trump administration is encouraged by continuing bipartisan conversations about legislation to reduce outrageous drug costs imposed on the American people, and President Trump will consider using any and all tools to ensure that prescription drug costs will continue to decline,” Deere said in a statement.

But AP reported that Jim Greenwood, head of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization said in a statement, “The administration has abandoned one of the only policy solutions that would have truly lowered what patients are forced to pay out of pocket for the medicines they need.” 

bfrancisco@jg.net