PISCATAWAY, NJ – Reducing the high cost of prescription medication was the lunchtime topic at the Piscataway Senior Center on Monday where Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-6) announced his proposed legislation for drug price controls, and how the federal government could require drug makers to be more accountable and transparent with pricing and production information.

His proposed legislation, to be introduced this fall would help reduce the cost of those prescriptions for seniors and working families.

“Prescription drug prices are higher than ever and American families and our health care system are suffering from staggering price hikes,” said Pallone, the Ranking Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees healthcare. “It’s time to find workable solutions that will encourage the development of affordable and high-quality drugs.”

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Pallone’s proposed legislation also calls for Medicare to be able to help negotiate the costs of brand name and generic forms of drugs with pharmaceutical companies.

“The Feds could do more to control costs since they already negotiate rates for the military which could be done for others,” he said, explaining how annual drug spending is expected to reach more than $500 billion here in the U.S. next year.

He said the governments of other countries negotiate drug costs on behalf of their citizens, however Americans subsidize the shortfall to the drug makers which adds on to the prices charged here.

“As Americans, we shouldn’t be carrying the cost of other countries’ drugs due to their negotiated contracts,” said Pallone adding that the bill will also apply to putting in controls for biologics or generic drugs.

While a pharmaceutical company holds the patent for a drug, no other version of the drug can be produced, even with the use of other ingredients. However, when the patent expires, some of those companies try to block generic forms from being made, said Pallone which are often much lower in cost to the consumer.

The proposed bill would require drug makers to provide more transparency with production information and safety records when the patent expires. “You can’t use safety and other reasons to keep others from producing a generic version of a drug,” said Pallone.

But even with lower cost generics available, Pallone acknowledged that some seniors will continue to use only the more expensive brand names because of the perception that they are safer. “The biggest problem is a lot of the ingredients come from overseas” which could affect quality control, he said. “Proper oversight is needed.”

“Drug prices impact local governments, too, through the employee’s plans at the county and state levels” said Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler. “This has to do with all facets of government and even affects property taxes. This is a very big issue not only for the individual, but for all municipal governments in general.”

“We encourage generics whenever possible to bring down the cost to the municipal government of providing health coverage for town employees,” said Wahler.

Christine Harris, a member of the senior center who attended the announcement said she expects the price controls to be helpful to her friends and family who pay high deductibles for their prescriptions, or make up for spending overages at the end of the year.

“If they can close the gap it would be great for most folks,” said Harris about the proposed legislation. “The costs of the drugs definitely need to go down so we don’t have to go outside of the US or online to get our medications.”

Lowering the cost of prescription drugs is a major part of the Democrats’ Better Deal agenda which among other items, targets lowering the cost of living for families.

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