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Analysis

Bipartisan Bills Aim to Prevent Price Gouging for Taxpayer-funded COVID-19 Drugs

By Jack O'Brien  
   June 22, 2020

The two pieces of legislation are sponsored by Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Lloyd Doggett.

Two new bipartisan bills aim to prevent price gouging for taxpayer-funded treatments and vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Make Medications Affordable by Preventing Pandemic Pricegouging Act (MMAPPP) Act of 2020, sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illi.), and Taxpayer Research and Coronavirus Knowledge (TRACK) Act, sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) were released Monday morning.

According to a press release, the MMAPPP would establish "comprehensive protections against drug price gouging" of COVID-19 treatments.

Specifically, the bill would prohibit monopolies by pharmaceutical companies for "taxpayer-funded COVID-19 drugs," require the federal government to mandate affordable pricing for treatments and vaccines, and require drugmakers to break down total expenditures on a COVID-19 drug, including what percentage were derived from federal funds.

Related: The First COVID-19 Vaccines May Not Prevent COVID-19 Infection

Meanwhile, the TRACK Act would create a database detailing "federal support of COVID-19 biomedical research and development" in pursuit of a vaccine.

Included in the database would be financial support and full terms of agreements between the federal government and drugmakers along with "associated clinical trial data and patent information."

"We have good reason to be skeptical about the role of the pharmaceutical industry. Well before this pandemic, we saw price gouging that cost lives. Now, during a global health crisis, many pharmaceutical companies will see another opportunity to benefit themselves by 'pandemic profiteering.' That cannot stand," Schakowsky said in a statement. "The Congress must guarantee affordable COVID-19 drugs, eliminate monopolies on these drugs, and ensure transparency for taxpayers who developed them."

In response to the global pandemic that has infected millions and killed thousands worldwide, several major pharmaceutical companies are currently working on developing and testing treatments and vaccines.

Late last week, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said at a press conference that the company could be ready to distribute its coronavirus vaccine in 2021.

Related: Moderna CEO Sees 'High Probability' of Success With COVID-19 Vaccine

Now, industry and governmental focus has started to shift towards issues surrounding the availability and cost of potential cures and antiviral therapies for COVID-19.

Rep. Francis Rooney, (R-Fla.), is a cosponsor on the proposals and issued a statement supporting the proposed efforts to increase accountability for COVID-19 drugs.

"The United States, and indeed the entire world, has been decimated by the health and economic effects of COVID-19," Rooney said. "Affordable and transparent pricing of medications developed to deal with this deadly pandemic is a necessity. Billions of taxpayer dollars have been used to fund research and development of a vaccine, and we must assure that drug companies do not take advantage of the demand for the medicines and vaccines that they develop to bring COVID-19 to an end."

MMAPP and the TRACK Act are the latest prescription drug pricing proposals to emerge from Washington, D.C. in recent days. 

The two pieces of legislation were released less than a week after the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule that ties payment for prescription drugs to patient outcomes.

Related: CMS Proposes Rule to Base Prescription Drug Payments on Patient Outcomes

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


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