Comer: We Must Unleash Healthcare Innovation and Improve Drug Affordability & Access

Published: Sep 30, 2020

WASHINGTON – House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) opened today’s two-part hearing on prescription drug prices by emphasizing the Trump administration’s actions to lower drug prices and the importance of removing red tape to unleash more innovation in the healthcare sector.

In his opening statement, Ranking Member Comer warned that the Democrats’ continued attacks on vaccine development and proposals to increase government mandates in the healthcare sector will stifle innovation and prevent more therapies and cures from being made available to the American people. He concluded that America must remain at the forefront of innovation and discovery while addressing prescription drug pricing and accessibility.

Below are Ranking Member Comer’s remarks as prepared for delivery.

Chairwoman Maloney, I appreciate your calling this hearing today on the important issue of drug prices.

This is a critical concern for my constituents, indeed for all of our constituents.  I am committed to working with you to identify and implement reforms that will improve access and affordability to prescription drugs.

This concern is also shared by the President.  Over the course of the last three years, President Trump has taken bold steps to address drug prices.

Under the current administration, drug prices have fallen over 13 percent from the expected trend.

Under President Trump, a record number of generic drugs have been approved, saving Americans tens of billions of dollars.

Under the Trump administration terminally ill patients are given a chance to explore innovative treatment options.

So we are all in agreement that drug pricing is a crucial issue for us to consider.

However, I am worried, Madam Chairwoman, about the apparent intentions of the Majority in holding this week’s hearings.  Instead of considering potential reforms in a productive and bipartisan manner, these hearings seem designed simply to vilify and publicly shame pharmaceutical company executives.

A productive set of hearings would consider the pros and cons of various reforms and would seek to retain the positives from the current system while identifying improvements where necessary and possible.

Instead, Democrats seem eager to cast our witnesses as villains and to place all blame for cost and access issues on the private sector.  The causes, I think, are far more complicated.

Many of the greatest healthcare innovations in the past 100 years have happened in America, and they have happened not because of government dictates but as a result of the tireless work of individuals having the freedom to experiment and compete and improve all of our lives.

At this moment in time, the entire world is cheering on the pharmaceutical industry to find a safe and effective vaccine to stop COVID-19.

That’s the path to a more complete return to normalcy, to reopening our economy, to getting our kids back to school, and to getting parents back to work.

Under the Trump administration we are seeing the fastest vaccine development in history. It’s unprecedented. A mere 43 days passed between sequencing of the coronavirus RNA and the start of vaccine development. As Dr. Fauci and others have testified, safety is not being sacrificed but the financial risks are high.

I’m hopeful Democrats can stop the repeated attacks on the vaccine development process which do nothing but undermine the efforts of so many government and private sector scientists.

Returning to the matter before us today, the policy challenge is ensuring we don’t kill the motive to develop new cures while at the same time taking targeted steps to address specific concerns regarding cost and patient access.

The problem, Madam Chairwoman, is not that the free market has failed.  Rather, the problem is that overly complex regulations and government interventions in the market have distorted incentives and created barriers to competition.

I don’t believe that more bureaucracy is the answer.  We must rethink regulations that distort prices and ensure that adequate competition happens in the marketplace.

And yes, we should consider any needed reforms to what the Founders envisioned as a limited guarantee to profit from an invention that at times has been distorted into an unlimited ability to exclude others from selling similar prescription drugs.

I look forward to hearing from today’s witnesses about how best to ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation and discovery while addressing prescription drug pricing and accessibility.

I hope we choose to do that in a manner that takes into account the complexities of modern pharmaceutical development and the life-saving innovations companies such as those appearing before us today have provided us all instead of creating false and simplistic narratives about the private sector.

Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, I yield back.