Congressman Keller urges HHS Secretary to address prescription drug costs during Education and Labor hearing
Washington, D.C. – During today’s House Committee on Education and Labor’s hearing examining the policies and priorities of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Congressman Fred Keller (PA-12) urged HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to take action to lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Specifically, Congressman Keller focused on the burdensome cost of retroactive direct and indirect remuneration (DIR) fees on community pharmacies across northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania.
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According to the fiscal year 2022 Budget Justification, DIR fees increased by more than 91,500 percent between 2010 and 2019. The National Community Pharmacy Association also found that the average community pharmacy pays more than $80,000 annually in DIR fees.
Speaking to Secretary Becerra, Keller highlighted that these DIR fees are unsustainable and unacceptable.
“These fees are applied by pharmacy benefit managers on community pharmacies after the point of sale, sometimes months afterward,” Keller said. “It’s hard to think of another industry that deals with such unfair treatment. DIR fees are clearly creating problems, driving pharmacies out of business, and increasing drug costs for those who rely on prescription drugs—particularly seniors.”
Keller went on to ask Secretary Becerra how he thinks Congress and the HHS can work together to find additional solutions on this issue.
“We’re ready to provide whatever technical assistance you might have as you all propose legislation to deal with this,” Secretary Becerra said. “We are prepared to work with you if there’s some [regulations] you all think we should be proposing.”
Keller pointed to certain agency proposals from 2018 as well as the DIR Reform to Reduce Senior Drug Costs Act as starting point for cooperation between the HHS and Congress to address growing DIR fees. The bill would require that price concessions be included in the negotiated price at the point of sale to a Medicare beneficiary.
In response, Secretary Becerra indicated a willingness to take a comprehensive look at regulations and legislation and work with Keller and stakeholders moving forward.
On the hearing, Congressman Keller made the following statement:
“I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Secretary Becerra about the challenges associated with DIR fees on community pharmacies in Pennsylvania and across the nation. On top of the costs of running a business, it is totally unfair for pharmacies to have to bear the burden of sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in DIR fees every year. Congress must work with the HHS and the Center for Medicare Services to come up with solutions that don’t leave community pharmacies on the hook for excessive costs after the point of sale and ensure those who need prescription drugs can find affordable options.”
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