Upton Predicts Lower Drug Prices if Cures Bill Becomes Law

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By Michael D. Williamson

Sept. 30 — The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee predicted Sept. 30 that drug prices would go down if the House-passed 21st Century Cures bill (H.R. 6) becomes law.

If enacted, the bill would expedite the approval of drugs and devices, which would reduce research and development costs and ultimately bring down prices, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said at a forum on the legislation.

In July, the House voted overwhelmingly (344–77) to pass the bill (133 HCDR, 7/13/15), which now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Upton and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), both of whom championed the bill in the House, spoke about the legislation's impact on medical research funding at a forum organized by the law firm Dentons. DeGette said getting a companion billdebated on the Senate floor this fall may be difficult. Since 2016 is a presidential election year, DeGette said she'd like to get a Senate version of the bill passed as quickly as possible and she welcomed senators' input on the legislation.

Privacy Issues

The forum's moderator, Bruce Merlin Fried, an attorney with Dentons' health-care practice in the firm's Washington office, said privacy advocates have raised concerns about the cures legislation. There are provisions in the bill “that would allow protected health information to be used for research purposes” and privacy advocates are anxious that it could undercut an individual's ability to control his or her own personal medical information, according to Fried.

Upton said the cures legislation includes adequate privacy protections. Individuals' personal health data “should be fine,”Upton said, adding, “At the same time, let's use some of the data” to further medical research and advance science.

DeGette said the bill would allow for the establishment of a centralized database for patient data. Many researchers believe that such a database is critical “to be able to utilize precision medicine and to be able to really find cures that will impact” patients, DeGette said.

The Colorado lawmaker also said that if patients are told that the personal data provisions in the cures bill would follow Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act procedures and that other steps will be taken to protect individual privacy, “the vast number of patients” will consent to allowing their information to be used for research.

However, provisions in the legislation about centralizing data could fleshed out more, according to DeGette, adding that “we think this is a place where the Senate could really bring a great imprint on to this bill.”