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U.S. House panel approves three bills aimed at tackling high drug prices By Reuters

© Reuters. FILEPHOTO: The shape of the U.S. dollar on this table is how pharmaceutical tablets and capsules look in this illustration, taken in Ljubljana 20 August 2014. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic/File Photo

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday to approve three bills to stop practices drugmakers use to raise prices and fend off competition, including a bill to ban the tactic of paying generic companies to delay bringing cheaper versions of their medicines to market.

The votes passed unanimously, but not by large margins. The committee will consider a fourth measure on Thursday.

Jerrold Nadler, Chairman of the Committee said that the Congressional Budget Office estimated that prohibiting so-called “pay-for-delay” patent agreements used to stall generic competitors – which is the subject of one bill – would result in a savings of more than 50 million dollars per year.

In rare circumstances, the House and Senate held a joint hearing in which both sides of Congress heard the measures. During the hearings, lawmakers representing both the House and Senate said that they introduced the bills to lower the price of prescription drugs for Americans. In the House and Senate, four bills that were identical were presented.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a ban on sham citizen petitions. These petitions are filed by drug companies to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to request approval for generic drugs. The purpose is to delay their market entry.

When multiple generic versions of the same brand name drug hit the market, they can lose up to 80% of their sales revenue.

The measure would prohibit product-hopping (the practice of making minor changes to a drug’s formula to gain a patent, thereby allowing for a shorter period of exclusivity) and also end pay-for delay patent deals.

All of the above measures were approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July via voice vote.

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee will vote on the final measure. This would allow for easier introduction of biosimilars. These are cheaper versions or less expensive biotech drug products that can’t be duplicated exactly like pills.

Next, the Senate and full House must take up these measures.

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Mike Robinson
Mike covers the financial, utilities and biotechnology sectors for Street Register. He has been writing about investment and personal finance topics for almost 12 years. Mike has an MBA in Finance from Wake Forest University.