In a rare show of bipartisan pushback against the pharmaceutical industry, Congress is poised to pass a bill that makes it easier for generic drugs to compete against brand names. The bill, known as the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act, will prevent drug companies from using tactics to delay cheaper generic versions of popular drugs from coming to market.
Big Pharma is pushing back and lobbying against the bill. They argue it will imperil patients’ safety and also open drug companies up to frivolous lawsuits. But the bill could save more than $3 billion from the federal budget, helping to pave the way for higher budget caps. Many say that Big Pharma’s lobbying efforts may be unsuccessful.
Senate co-sponsors of the bill include a group of lawmakers as diverse ideologically as Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). It is also popular in the House. The level of support gives the bill a high chance of passage. Acting against high drug prices is something the public rates as a stop priority in public polls.
The bill cracks down on drug companies delaying the introduction of cheaper, generic versions of their drugs by refusing to provide samples needed for research. It would allow companies to sue for those samples. It would also allow a generic company to develop its own safety standards rather than develop a shared standard with the brand name company.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America oppose the bill because it, they say, “could threaten patient safety.” But supporters of the bill say public sentiment is on their side. Asked whether congressional leadership is open to the bill, Sen. Klobuchar said, “I would hope so. They better be, because the public’s getting pretty pissed about drug prices.”