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Grassley Wants Drug-Price Transparency and Farm Program Certainty

John Pemble / IPR file
Sen. Chuck Grassley serves on the agriculture committee and chairs the finance committee.

Iowa’s senior U.S. senator is looking for a way to make life-saving medication more affordable to people.

Republican Chuck Grassley chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, which is holding the second in a series of hearings Tuesday to examine why prescription drug prices are so high.

It takes time and money to make medications like insulin, Grassley says, but he thinks the system seems “somewhat out of balance.”

“Prices for some medications, like insulin, have skyrocketed even though nothing about them has changed in many, many decades,” he says.

The hearing will explore the complex ways drug companies and industries price their prescription drug products. The finance committee has invited seven pharmaceutical company executives to testify.

Grassley says pharmaceutical companies have the right to set high list prices, but he wants to examine what goes into a company’s decision to do that.

“Why is it that the price is so high, but then you come along and you have a whole bunch of rebates and the price is lower?" he asked. "So shouldn’t the consumer be paying the lower price, and why don’t we start out with that lower price?”

Grassley says he wants more transparency, which will create accountability in the marketplace.

The long-time senator also serves on the Senate agriculture committee, which will be hearing from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday. The secretary is expected to update senators on the implementation of the new farm bill, which President Trump signed just days before the 35-day partial government shutdown.

Grassley says overproduction and the current trade wars have pushed prices for corn, soybeans and pork below the level that allows farmers to make a profit.

He says farmers are generally resilient but they need the certainty of farm bill safety net programs.

“Unfortunately, we’re starting to see more and more warning signs that farmers are running out of leeway with their bankers and landlords,” he says.

Neighboring states are seeing more bankruptcies than Iowa, Grassley says, but even here there are troubling economic signs.

“We’re hearing from bankers that there seems to be more stress,” Grassley says. “I haven’t heard about bankruptcies so much, but I’ve heard that it’s reached a point where farmers that didn’t have to put up collateral to get a loan… now more farmers are putting up collateral to get loans.”

In addition to getting farm bill programs updated, Grassley says finalizing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement for North American trade and resolving the conflict with China would also help the agriculture economy.