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On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden, will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. What will Biden’s presidency and a new congress mean for U.S. prescription drug costs? CPPI examines the new leaders who impact prescription drug prices and who may expand personal prescription importation.

Following runoff elections in Georgia, Democrats control both the House and the Senate. Razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate, along with the demands of responding to the escalating crisis of the pandemic, will make it difficult to pass consensus legislation. Meanwhile, lowering prescription drug prices remains among Americans’ top policy priorities. This is one area where political consensus could be built.

President Biden and Democrats will likely push legislation strengthening the Affordable Care Act, expanding Medicaid, eliminating surprise billing, and lowering drug costs. Legislation to expand access to safe, affordable, prescription drugs from Canada by way of personal importation is a sure bi-partisan win; and offers American’s critically needed savings.

President Joe Biden

“Biden will allow consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those drugs are safe,” Biden’s health care plan read.

President Biden’s Administration has the opportunity for an early win with the expansion of personal prescription importation, will his team have the wear-with-all to carry it out?

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra

The current California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, has been nominated as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Prior to his time as AG, Becerra served in Congress for two decades serving on the Ways and Means Committee and in House leadership. In Congress, Becerra was a leader in defending the Affordable Care Act. At HHS Secretary Becerra will take the lead in implementing any drug pricing policies carried over from the Trump Administration – which includes the wholesale importation rule and proposed RFP on personal importation.

Acting FDA Administrator Janet Woodcock

The longtime director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will serve as Acting FDA Administrator and in under consideration to become the permanent administrator. Woodcock has been an ardent advocate for FDA control of drug inspections and regulations to ensure the safety of medicine. Woodcock should be assured that online Canadian pharmacies who support Americans with personal prescription importation from licensed and certified have a 100% safety record.

U.S. Senate

On January 20th, after Vice President-elect Kamala Harris takes the oath of office, Democrats will hold the Senate majority, as the vice president casts deciding votes. There are three committees that have a particularly large impact on prescription drug price policy Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Finance, and Budget

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Schumer, the Democratic leader of the Senate, has long supported importation of Canadian prescription drugs. Schumer has been a vocal advocate for commonsense cost savings and a defender of the safety offered by Canadian prescription medicines.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R- KY)

McConnell will continue to play a significant role in any legislation considered on the Senate floor. He has voted against the expansion of prescription importation, notably on a 2017 amendment. In 2020 however, led by President Trump, Republicans embraced expanded importation.

Senate HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA)

Senator Murray has been a vocal supporter of prescription importation on the campaign trail but faced criticism for voting in opposition to an importation amendment in 2017. 2021 could be the year for Senator Murray to make good on her word and vote to support prescription importation.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senator Wyden has worked tirelessly to reduce drug prices. In 2017, Wyden worked to save the prescription importation vote with an amendment that would have allowed importation pending a safety certification, but it was defeated. Last year Wyden worked with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to introduce a bipartisan bill that passed out of the Senate Finance Committee and could be the initial template for drug pricing legislation under the Biden administration.

Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been one of the most ardent Senate supporter of prescription importation, will chair the powerful Budget Committee. The Budget Committee will play a leading role in any Coronavirus relief legislation. Relief legislation represents an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation.

House of Representatives

House Democrats, who have championed numerous bills to support and expand prescription drug importation, will retain a narrow majority in the 117th Congress.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leadership have aggressively fought for legislation to rein in drug prices. Pelosi led the charge on a bill to let the government negotiate certain prices, H.R. 3 (116), which passed the House but did not get a vote in the Senate.

House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

Rep. DeLauro was a co-sponsor of the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, and has fought to keep American access to affordable prescription drugs from abroad. Rep. DeLauro and the Appropriations Committee will play a key role in Coronavirus relief.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ)

Rep. Pallone will retain leadership of the committee that has oversight of health issues. Pallone led House efforts on the SCREEN Act aimed at combatting rogue pharmacies’ role in the opioid epidemic. He has opposed importation legislation in the past, but with significant public pressure to deliver and other Democratic leadership supportive of importation, will Pallone pull through?

House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)

Chairwoman Maloney held multiple hearings and investigations during the 116th Congress examining profiteering and excessive drug pricing by the pharmaceutical industry. It is expected that Maloney will continue to champion Americans’ fight for affordable medication.

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