Since leaving the job of Ohio Republican Party Chairman, I’ve devoted a lot of my time to the fight to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Our elected officials have an opportunity right now to bring much-needed reform, via a bill in the United States Senate. The current legislation would not only be a good political move, it’s great policy too.
The Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples – or CREATES – Act is designed to increase competition in the prescription drug market and help drive down prices.
For too long, entrenched special interest groups have fought reforms in this area, and the pharmaceutical industry simply values maximizing profits. It’s clear today that the status quo on prescription drug costs is no longer tenable.
A recent survey conducted on behalf of Patients For Affordable Drugs shows the cost of prescription medicine is top-of-mind for 8 in 10 Americans. Eighty-percent of respondents said the cost of drugs should a “top” or “important” priority for Congress. The same poll showed more than 80% - including huge majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents - support the CREATES Act.
It gets better. The CREATES Act is backed by an impressively bipartisan list of sponsors, including Sens. Diane Feinstein and Richard Durbin on the left, Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee on the right, and Sen. Susan Collins in the middle. Both AARP and the Heritage Foundation support it.
The CREATES Act would reduce the length of time between a drug going off-patent and when a competitor can enter the market with a lower-cost competing product. The patent system provides inventors the legal protection they deserve, usually for around twenty years. Consumers benefit because once the patent expires, costs usually go down.
What happens when the patent holder refuses to sell samples of its drug at market prices? Well, not much. And you’d be surprised how frequently this kind of thing happens.
There isn’t much recourse for other manufacturers to gain access to samples, which competitors need because they have to demonstrate to the Food and Drug Administration that their product is chemically identical to the original product.
The CREATES Act provides an avenue for competitors to sue to obtain the necessary drug samples. Understand this simply builds on the existing patent system, it doesn’t impose new burdens or penalize inventors, which, let’s face it, have been essentially granted a monopoly by the federal government.
Republicans had a chance to include the CREATES Act in the Senate’s budget deal last week. Doing so would have permitted them to go back to their constituents and tell them they took meaningful action on the high cost of their medicines. They could have done so by sticking to their free market principles and by simply strengthening the existing patent law system.
For the leadership looking at good policy – and Republican prospects for 2018 - it’s now more important than ever that Senate leadership get on board with the CREATES Act.
Matt Borges served as Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party from 2013-2017.