05.11.17

Murray Remarks on Advancing User Fee Agreements Through HELP Committee

Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered the following opening statement at a markup to advance legislation reauthorizing the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) user fee programs, which allow industry to support the FDA’s work to approve drugs, generics, biosimilars, and medical devices while upholding its gold standard of approval and evaluating these products efficiently.

 

The legislation is now ready for consideration by the full Senate.

 

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“I urge my Republican colleagues to drop the partisan, deeply damaging approach currently being taken in so many other areas of health care policy—because there is certainly a lot we could get done if that was to happen. The way to truly solve problems in our health care system isn’t to retreat to partisan corners and negotiate in secret along party lines—and with an all-male working group—the way to do it is through collaborative, bipartisan work. Like we’ve done in this committee to make sure the FDA can continue to meet its responsibility, to assure patients and families that the drugs, and medical devices they count on are safe and effective by reauthorizing user fee agreements. I am pleased that were able to avoid re-opening these agreements as President Trump proposed, and I want to express my appreciation to members on both sides of the aisle for their bipartisan work on this legislation. We’ve been able to incorporate important priorities from members on both sides of the aisle that: accelerate the development of cures for children; improve the generic drug review process to increase market competition; strengthen FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of medical devices after approval; and protect the integrity of the orphan drug act, which has brought hope to so many patients, by preventing gaming of the system.”

 

“And I’m committed to continuing to improve this package as it moves toward the floor. I’m also pleased that Senator Alexander has heard the calls of members from both sides of this committee and agreed to hold a hearing on prescription drug spending. This is an urgent health care issue that all of our constituents care about.  And members on both sides of the aisle have good ideas—like negotiating prices in Medicare Part D, ensuring generic manufacturers have access to brand name drugs to develop products and increase competition, and bringing more price transparency to the market. So I appreciate you taking the first step with me by agreeing to hold a hearing in this committee, and I hope that we can build on the work we’ve done reauthorizing the user fees to tackle this important challenge. Lastly, I really appreciate the bipartisan work that Senators Collins and Baldwin have done on the RAISE Family Caregivers Act.  We need to ensure support for the millions of family members providing critical care to their loved ones, and I am proud to support this legislation.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

Thank you, Chairman Alexander. And thank you to all of our colleagues for joining us.

 

Just a few weeks ago, I was in my home state of Washington at a community health center in Moses Lake.  And I met a woman there named Vanessa and her months-old daughter Cheyanne. Now Cheyanne is a beautiful little girl. And I got to hold her during that visit. But little did I know, Cheyanne had just spent weeks in the ICU, and that she would soon be going back in for open-heart surgery.

 

When Vanessa was pregnant with Cheyanne, doctors had told her that Cheyanne would be born with significant health problems. Fortunately, Vanessa has health insurance through our state exchange, so she and her family were able to make a plan. Of course, in no way has it been easy.  Cheyanne will need at least three life-saving surgeries—all before her first birthday. And she will need expensive care and treatment for many years to come. Before I left that clinic, Vanessa took me aside and told me, that she doesn’t know what her family would do if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

 

Mr. Chairman, this is just one story, but it represents the real feelings of worry, fear, and anxiety that families are experiencing nationwide. Families whose health, financial security, and, in many cases, lives will be at risk, as a result of the harmful policies that Republicans are pushing under Trumpcare.

 

Trumpcare would end the guarantee of essential health benefits for health plans and decrease the availability of tax credits—which threatens access to: maternity care, mental health, substance use disorder services, and prescription drugs. In the first few years, Trumpcare would increase premiums by as much as 20 percent, average costs would go up on the middle class, as well as on lower-income enrollees, and Trumpcare would be especially devastating for older Americans—some low-income older Americans would be forced to pay as much as half of their income in premiums.

 

I could go on and on and on. But the bottom line is that Trumpcare isn’t about helping patients or families—it’s about President Trump getting his way, and Republicans delivering massive tax cuts for special interests and the very wealthy. Now that might work for President Trump, Republicans, and those at the top—which is frankly what we’ve seen too often over the past 100 days with this Administration— but it’s certainly not good for families like Vanessa’s.

 

And the thing is, Mr. Chairman, people want us to come together on this issue and focus on continuing to fix the real problems that exist in our health care system. So I really hope you and other Republicans will reconsider heading down this harmful path you’re currently on. It is also deeply disappointing to me that with so much at stake, and reports of ongoing negotiations about a Senate Republican version of Trumpcare, that this committee, charged with legislating on the health and wellbeing of people across our country—has yet to hold a single hearing to discuss exactly what Trumpcare would mean for the people we represent.

 

As you know, this is something I and other Democrats have repeatedly requested, and we will continue to push hard for the public hearings and debate our constituents deserve. I urge my Republican colleagues to drop the partisan, deeply damaging approach currently being taken in so many other areas of health care policy—because there is certainly a lot we could get done if that was to happen. The way to truly solve problems in our health care system isn’t to retreat to partisan corners and negotiate in secret along party lines—and with an all-male working group—the way to do it is through collaborative, bipartisan work.

 

Like we’ve done in this committee to make sure the FDA can continue to meet its responsibility, to assure patients and families that the drugs, and medical devices they count on are safe and effective by reauthorizing user fee agreements. I am pleased that were able to avoid re-opening these agreements as President Trump proposed, and I want to express my appreciation to members on both sides of the aisle for their bipartisan work on this legislation. We’ve been able to incorporate important priorities from members on both sides of the aisle that: accelerate the development of cures for children; improve the generic drug review process to increase market competition; strengthen FDA’s ability to monitor the safety of medical devices after approval; and protect the integrity of the orphan drug act, which has brought hope to so many patients, by preventing gaming of the system.

 

And I’m committed to continuing to improve this package as it moves toward the floor. I’m also pleased that Senator Alexander has heard the calls of members from both sides of this committee and agreed to hold a hearing on prescription drug spending. This is an urgent health care issue that all of our constituents care about.  And members on both sides of the aisle have good ideas—like negotiating prices in Medicare Part D, ensuring generic manufacturers have access to brand name drugs to develop products and increase competition, and bringing more price transparency to the market.

 

So I appreciate you taking the first step with me by agreeing to hold a hearing in this committee, and I hope that we can build on the work we’ve done reauthorizing the user fees to tackle this important challenge. Lastly, I really appreciate the bipartisan work that Senators Collins and Baldwin have done on the RAISE Family Caregivers Act.  We need to ensure support for the millions of family members providing critical care to their loved ones, and I am proud to support this legislation.

 

Thank you, and I’ll turn it back over to Chairman Alexander.

 

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