As a pharmacist, I’ve seen incredible advancements in medicine in my lifetime.
Over the course of my career, I saw the creation and evolution of truly life-changing treatments for patients who would have been without hope when I first started in the profession.
However, if the life-saving medication is not affordable, it does no good for the patients who desperately need it. That is why I believe Congress needs to be laser focused on lowering the costs of prescription drugs.
A mother or an elderly patient should never be faced with buying groceries or medications. I’ve seen this firsthand and this issue is deeply personal to me.
One of the central elements of the debate around the price of prescription drugs has to do with rebates that are negotiated between the drug manufacturer and the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM).
For years, each of these two sides has pointed their fingers at one another accusing the other of being responsible for the expensive costs of drugs. PBMs argue the manufacturers should just set lower list prices, while manufacturers counter that their list price increases are a reflection of PBMs insisting on increasingly large rebates.
Up to this point, there has been exceptionally little transparency into these drug rebates, making it very difficult to cut through the argument of each side to understand what is actually happening.
In fact, not even Congress’s own non-partisan advisory panels, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and the Medicaid and CHIP Payment Advisory Commission (MACPAC) have access to the data needed to fully study prescription drug rebates.
MedPAC and MACPAC are valuable resources for Congress. The experts who serve on those commissions are able to perform in-depth analysis on specific parts of our health care system and provide policy recommendations to Congress on how to improve important issues. The fact that these industry experts do not have the data they need to properly study such an important aspect of our drug supply chain is very troublesome.
How can MedPAC and MACPAC provide Congress with recommendations to effectively lower drug prices without this critical data?
Last year, both MedPAC and MACPAC wrote to Congress expressing those exact concerns. In response, I joined my colleague Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), as well as Reps. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) to introduce H.R. 1781, the Payment Commission Data Act.
Our bill brings much needed transparency to the drug supply chain by ensuring both MedPAC and MACPAC have access to drug rebate data. This data will help MedPAC and MACPAC to analyze important questions like how competition in our drug market is working, and how Part D plans are managing the growth in drug prices.
Additionally, this bill ensures MedPAC and MACPAC have the tools they need to make informed recommendations to Congress on how we can bring down the price of drugs for patients.
In the Energy and Commerce Committee, we have worked all year to advance a number of good, bipartisan drug policies that could make a difference for patients. The issue of prescription drug costs is simply too important to be sacrificed in the name of politics.
Last month, our legislation was passed on the House floor. The Payment Commission Data Act is proof that we can in fact pass bipartisan drug pricing reforms.
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to see President Trump sign this bill and other bipartisan solutions into law.
Carter represents the 1st District of Georgia in the House of Representatives. He is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and is currently the only pharmacist serving in Congress.