After a group of legal experts and public health experts concluded that the executive can take action to lower prescription drug costs, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D.Massachusetts), has asked the Biden administration for help.
In a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, Warren wrote that the agency should heed the advice of experts and “use its executive powers to lower drive prices, as explicitly contemplated by the Department of Health and Human Services’s Comprehensive Plan for Addressing High Drug Prices.”
The letter is as follows a note that experts sent to Warren last week detailing how existing laws give HHS legal tools to intervene when “excessive” drug prices are negatively affecting public health.
“These tools can help the Administration break patent barriers, foster competition where currently there is none, and drive down prices. Critically, using them requires no additional congressional action,” the experts wrote.
The experts, led by professors and legal students from Harvard, Yale and Columbia, pointed to a law known as “government patent use power,” which gives the government the authority to use a patented technology without a license; the Defense Department uses the law to procure technologies like bullets and night vision goggles, for instance. In the past, the government has used this law to purchase patented medicines at a lower cost, but lawmakers haven’t used it for this purpose since the 1970s, the experts wrote.
“Today, the federal government could and should use this power to curb excessively high drug prices paid by the government,” they said. The government doesn’t need to jump through specific hoops to use the law, they wrote, and “it can simply buy patented drugs from a low-cost manufacturer, or it can manufacture drugs itself.” This could drastically lower the cost of drugs used by Medicare and Medicaid.
The letter also refers to a 1980 bill called the Bayh-Dole Act. It was passed to allow the American public to access inventions created with tax revenue and government funds.
“[W]hen the government directly funds research that results in a patent, the Bayh-Dole Act gives the government two additional tools: a royalty-free license in that patent and a right of the government to ‘march in’ on the patent to ensure that the resulting products are ‘available to the public on reasonable terms,’” said the letter writers.
They said that combined Bayh-Dole and patent use power laws would be extremely powerful and could significantly lower drug prices as well as expand access to vital drugs.
President Joe Biden has previously called forThe Build Back Better Bill, a social spending bill that aims to lower prescription drug costs, is his proposal. The bill’s drug price provisions were strongly opposed by the pharmaceutical industry. lobbying hardFor the measure and persuading Some conservative DemocratsIt is possible to also oppose its inclusion.
The Build Back better Act was ultimately defeated by Senators Joe Manchin (D–West Virginia) & Kyrsten Synema (D–Arizona). Prescription drug pricing plans were also killed. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vermont) demanded the Senate floor be reopened earlier in the year. Discuss on his and Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minnesota) bill to allow Medicare to access lower drug prices, but the debate was blocked by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).
It is likely that the Biden administration will be very popular if it takes executive action to lower the drug prices and avoids Congress altogether. Last year, Polling found that the public overwhelmingly supported Sanders’s proposal to give Medicare the ability to negotiate prescription drug prices, with 88 percent of people surveyed saying that they supported the proposal.