Drug Price Fix Seen in Supply of Generics, Rebates, Senator Says

(Bloomberg) -- Streamlining the pharmaceutical supply chain and getting more generic drugs to market would help consumers who can’t afford prescriptions, the head of the U.S. Senate’s special committee on aging said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

“There are a lot of people getting very wealthy along this supply chain,” while regular Americans are paying “crushingly high” prices for their drugs, Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, said Wednesday.

The rebates and discounts on drugs from pharmaceutical companies -- which she said set high list prices to begin with -- are offered to middle men without being passed down to consumers, Collins said. Another area that needs change is patent “gaming,” in which brand-name manufacturers file multiple patents on a drug in order to keep competitors out of the market, she added.

“Sometimes the generic drug companies have a hard time getting enough samples of the drug” to run tests needed to meet bio-equivalency requirements from the Food and Drug Administration, Collins said. “Where there are shortages of prescription drugs, we ought to be able to import from a country like Canada that has lower prices,” she added.

The Senate Special Committee on Aging is holding a three-part hearing on prescription drug pricing that started Wednesday and continues Thursday. This week the committee is hearing from people affected by high drug prices and policy experts. Collins said that later this Spring the committee will hear from administration officials on what they’re doing to make the cost of drugs more transparent and affordable.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.