WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law regarding competition in health care markets. In her testimony, Klobuchar spoke on the urgent need to lower the cost of prescription drugs, highlighting her legislation with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to update merger filing fees to ensure antitrust enforcers have adequate resources, promote generic drugs, and prevent branded pharmaceutical companies from paying off drugmakers to delay the introduction of affordable generic drugs and biosimilars (a practice called “pay-for-delay”). Klobuchar also discussed the need to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs for seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D as a solution to address high drug prices, which her legislation, the Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act, would provide.
In February, Klobuchar introduced the Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act -- sweeping legislation to reinvigorate America’s antitrust laws and restore competition to American markets. This legislation would give federal enforcers the resources they need to do their jobs, strengthen prohibitions on anticompetitive conduct and mergers, and make additional reforms to improve enforcement.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, Ranking Member. I assure you, Mr. Chair, if they ever make a movie out of my book (dream on), you will have a starring role. Thank you for your work on digital platforms, bipartisan work in this committee, and this incredible gathering you’ve put together to make the point that it's not just tech where we see this kind of consolidation. It’s health care, it’s everything from cat food to caskets.
So, I got involved on the pharma side when I got a call in 2008 from a pharmacist at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital who said that the price of this life saving drug for heart defects for kids, for babies, newborn babies, has gone up from $85 dollars a treatment to $1600 dollars a treatment. I’m thinking “that’s impossible.” I call the head of the hospital, I start looking into it. What happened is one company bought that drug and then they cornered the market. They bought the other drug and those were the only two drugs available and they went to town and made a whole bunch of money. Even the FTC, they tried to take it on, we tried to take it on in Congress. AGs across the country tried to take it on. They ultimately failed. It took years -- years -- for a generic to develop.
That is what we’re dealing with. When newborn babies, and their parents, and all the hospitals in the country can’t win a case, we better do something about it.
And I think you know some of the answers because they’ve come right out of this House. First of all, I would suggest negotiations of drug prices under Medicare. A bill that I lead, as well as Representative Welch. I think it is a great idea; the president mentioned it last night.
Doing something when it comes to drug re-importation is something that I know, Chairman, many people have worked on over on this side. I also have worked on that bill with Senator Grassley. I know he’s coming up next. That’s a pretty important effort. And there’s efforts over here as well.
Protecting drug price competition and doing something about generics. You mentioned the CREATES Act and the work we have to do to stop pay-for-delay. That is ripe for action. It is outrageous that we still have this practice going on where pharmaceuticals are paying their competitors, generics, to keep their products off the market. There’s more we can do on that and you mentioned a few of those efforts, Mr. Chairman.
Finally, antitrust competition policy. Incredible consolidation that’s been going on and I’m focused here, there’s other aspects of healthcare, but on pharma. What I’m thinking is when you look at what we’re dealing with, when we’ve got the biggest companies the world has ever known, and Facebook and Google now being sued by the FTC and by the Justice Department, this was a good thing. I’m glad that Makan Delrahim and Chairman Simons under the Trump administration brought these suits. Now they’re being carried on by the Biden administration.
But you can’t just do that and expect these healthcare pharma issues to be taken care of without funding those agencies. Senator Grassley and I, he can mention this, have a bill to finally update our nation’s antitrust laws fees when it comes to mergers. It’s a merger filing fee bill. Almost got on, as you know Mr. Chairman, at the end of the year in the budget, with support from the White House. We need to get that done immediately, and that will add significant resources to the two agencies, plus the appropriations policies.
You cannot take on big pharma and big tech with Band-Aids and duct tape. You have got to give them the resources to do it.
And then I would finally add the work we are all doing on going after exclusionary conduct, going after these mergers, changing the standards, and making sure that our laws are as sophisticated as the companies that are supposed to be serving consumers.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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