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Sanders, Cassidy game out drug pricing package

DRUG LOBBYISTS, MARK YOUR CALENDARS — April 19 is the day Senate HELP Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to mark up a yet-to-be-seen bipartisan bill focused on policies related to generic drugs and pharmacy benefit managers, more than a half-dozen lobbyists tell Megan and David.

That means the rush is on for committee staff to write the legislation with details still in flux, said the lobbyists, who were granted anonymity to discuss private committee deliberations.

The committee meeting is slated to come just weeks after top HELP staffers for Sanders and ranking member Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) sent an email to other committee members about a markup “focusing on bipartisan policies” and encouraging staffers to highlight priorities their bosses might have on changing PBM and generic policies, according to a March 16 email obtained by POLITICO.

“When the committee has scheduling announcements to make, we will make them,” said Mike Casca, Sanders’ spokesperson and deputy chief of staff. Ty Bofferding, a spokesperson for Cassidy, referred questions to Sanders’ office, noting: “The majority sets the schedule.”

Lobbyists are busy determining what’s in and what’s out of the legislation, but the committee could pull language from previously introduced bills, most of which were bipartisan.

Sanders, a vocal critic of large drugmakers, hasn’t said much about PBMs throughout his 32-year tenure in Congress. Cassidy is interested in expanding access to generic drugs, which are cheaper than their brand-name counterparts. He’s also been critical of PBMs and talked about the need for industry transparency.


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