Walden spearheads approval of Senate measures ending gag clauses on drug prices

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Sept. 25 guided U.S. House approval of two bipartisan bills aimed at lowering the costs of drug prices.

With both measures receiving U.S. Senate approval last week, Rep. Walden spearheaded passage in the House of the Know the Lowest Price Act of 2018, S. 2553, and the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, S. 2554, which both received unanimous voice vote consent on Tuesday. The measures now head to the president for his signature to make them law.

Both proposals would bring “much-needed transparency into the drug supply chain, and help patients afford the medicines they need,” Rep. Walden said in support of the bills on the House floor.

The bills would ban the use of so-called contract “gag clauses,” which restrict pharmacists from informing patients that purchasing a drug would be cheaper if they paid out of pocket rather than through their health insurance, according to a statement from Rep. Walden’s office.

The restriction currently is regulated under Medicare Part D. The bills would extend the restriction across Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug Plans, Medicare Part D, and group and individual health insurance.

Rep. Walden said the legislation denotes progress toward ending what he considers to be a troubling practice that limits patient information.

“I first heard about the gag clause issue from Michele, an independent pharmacist from Grants Pass, Oregon, in my district,” the congressman said prior to the House vote. “She told me that as a pharmacist she was precluded – under certain insurance contracts – from telling a patient that their cash price would be cheaper than going through their insurance. Michele told me that she once even received a cease and desist letter for trying to help a child with a terminal disease access his medication.”

“That is simply unacceptable,” said Walden.

Under Rep. Walden’s leadership as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he also led the committee in unanimously approving a combined version of the two bills, the Know the Cost Act of 2018, H.R. 6733, during a Sept. 13 markup session.

The now House-approved S. 2553 and S. 2554 both incorporate the identical House bills for each (H.R. 6144 and H.R. 6143, respectively), as well as H.R. 6733.