Portman Backs Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on High Prescription Drug Prices

Legislation Lowers Out-of-Pocket Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries, Helps Address Rising Drug Prices & Saves Taxpayers More Than $100 Billion

July 25, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) today joined members of both parties on the Senate Finance Committee in approving the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, bipartisan legislation to crack down on high prescription drug prices.  During the committee’s markup, Portman delivered opening remarks outlining his support for the bill.  His remarks can be viewed here.  Following the committee markup, Portman released the following statement: 

“I hear a lot from Ohioans who are tired of the rising costs of prescription drugs. It’s gotten so bad that some Ohioans have to choose between paying their mortgage or rent and being able to afford expensive prescription drugs for themselves or their children.  With Medicare and Medicaid paying more and more for prescription drugs, high prices are also increasing costs to taxpayers.  The legislation we voted on today takes a number of common sense steps to reduce prescription drug costs and bring some common sense to our health care system.  It helps lower out-of-pocket costs for our seniors, cracks down on the high prices set by drug manufacturers, ends the practice of spread pricing in the Medicaid program by pharmacy benefit managers, and saves taxpayers more than $100 billion. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to advance this legislation and I urge the full Senate to pass this legislation soon.” 

NOTE: A summary of the legislation can be found hereThe bill also includes the following two Portman legislative priorities: 

  • Legislation Portman introduced with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) – the Recovering Excessive Funds for Unused and Needless Drugs (REFUND) Act – which will enable Medicare to recoup money from drug companies who were paid for wasted medications, and provide savings to seniors enrolled in Medicare.  Each year, Medicare and private health insurers waste nearly $3 billion on cancer medications that are thrown out because the drugs are packaged in vials that hold too much for most patients.  This bipartisan bill will reduce the egregious wasted spending on discarded medications that are the result of excessively large, single-use drug vials.  When the bill was introduced in February, Portman said: “Our health care system should be reimbursing for value and only paying for products that patients are actually using.  This is a smart bill that’s good for seniors and taxpayers, and I believe it will improve health care outcomes and lower costs for all patients.”


  • A Portman amendment to require the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to conduct a study on the influence of pharmaceutical manufacturer distribution models that provide third-party reimbursement hub services on health care providers that prescribe the manufacturer’s drugs.  The report would seek to identify whether these hub services influence or incentivize a provider to prescribe a drug, thus mitigating the effectiveness of cost-control measures like prior-authorization and step therapy that a Part D plan may utilize.  The report would also seek to identify whether these hub services violate any existing federal laws.  Manufacturers have the flexibility to offer a wide array of support services for their products through “hub services,” which serve as a single point for coordinating patient or provider needs for a drug.  An investigation led by Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), which Portman chairs, found an example where hub services were exploited.  The report found that a drug manufacturer, kaléo, exploited the opioid crisis by increasing the price of its naloxone drug EVZIO by more than 600 percent by 2016.  The company used its ability to offer hub services to effectively bypass a Medicare Part D plan’s step therapy requirements, thus encouraging the patient to skip over a more affordable and equally effective alternative for kaléo’s more expensive product.  After the PSI report was made public, kaleo reduced the price from $4,100 to $178 per unit.  This example remains as just a case study and the scope of potential abuses from hub services remains unclear.