Senators Propose Bill Aimed at Drug Waste, Oversized Eye Drops

November 3, 2017: By Jon Swedien
US Capitol

US Capitol

Two US senators have introduced legislation that aims to prevent drug waste and targets ophthalmic treatments that come in oversized eye drops.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, are sponsoring the Drug Waste Act of 2017.

The bill would require the FDA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop a joint action plan to reduce drug waste and better manage costs with respect to single-use drug vial sizes and other drug delivery systems, such as eye-drops, according to a press release from Klobuchar’s office.

The senators said the legislation was spurred in part by a recent ProPublica story that examined drug waste issues, as well as other reports. The ProPublica story focused on ophthalmic eye drops and cancer medications, and it noted that many ophthalmic eye drops are too large to be absorbed by the eye and as such product is lost each time the eye drops are administered.

Klobuchar and Grassley said reducing waste could curtail excess spending for both customers and taxpayers. “With the skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs, American taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for medicine going to waste,” Klobuchar said in the release.

One of the sources for the ProPublica story, however, questioned whether reducing the size of the drops would lead to cheaper prices.

In the story, Gary Novack, PhD, president of PharmaLogic Development, told ProPublica that making eye drops smaller with higher concentrations of medicine might be ideal, but it would not necessarily lower prices. He said, even if eye drops were made smaller, companies would “‘acclimate,’ raising prices by charging by dose instead of volume.”

The issue is also complicated by the fact that research and development and regulatory costs play a large role in drug pricing, which would not be addressed by a reduction in product waste. Rebate and reimbursement issues with government and private insurers also complicate the matter.

Klobuchar and Grassley have also introduced the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act. The bill aims to expand consumers’ access to cost-saving generic drugs and increase competition by ending “pay for delay” deals.

The two also have voiced support for Sen. Patrick Leahy’s Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act that seeks to prevent brand-name drug companies from preventing generic drugs from entering the market.

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