Lawmakers accuse the drug industry of trying to ‘hijack’ opioid bill

Sept. 26, 2018

As a new bill to address the nation’s opioid epidemic moves quickly through Congress, pharma industry lobbyists have attempted to include a provision that would lower brand-name drugmakers' discounts to Medicare patients. But lawmakers and activists have been quick to shoot down the effort.

The debate stems from provision in the budget bill, passed in February, that increased the discounts given by brand-name drugmakers to patients who fall into the “doughnut hole” of Medicare Part D coverage from 50 to 70 percent next year. As part of the opioid bill, PhRMA, the industry’s biggest lobbying group, wanted to lower the discount to 63 percent, citing a “technical error” in the budget.

According to a report in the New York Times, PhRMA also argued that insurance companies should be chipping in more to help patients that fall into the coverage gap — and many health economists agree. The industry also said that because the Congressional Budget Office originally estimated that the increased discount would save the federal government $7.7 billion but then raised the estimate to $11.8 billion after the law was enacted, Congress should funnel that $4 billion difference back to the industry.

One lawmaker accused PhRMA of trying to “hijack” the opioid bill and turn it into a “bailout” for drug companies.

According to the NYT report, lawmakers are confident the rollback in discounts for pharma will be rejected, at least in this bill.

Read the full New York Times report.