Trump will decide fate of Susan Collins’ effort to combat Rx price gouging

A bill that includes a provision co-authored by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins to lower drug prices awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

The provision, part of the Food and Drug Administration’s Reauthorization Act, seeks to keep prescription drug prices down by speeding up timelines and inspection procedures for the FDA’s review of applications for generic drug production. Among other measures, it gives the FDA latitude to speed up inspections and approvals of medication manufacturing facilities and calls on the agency to provide more status updates about generic drugs that are already in the process after their name-brand counterparts have had their patents and exclusivity clauses expire.

Collins, who authored the provision in partnership with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said in a news release that the legislation resulted from an investigation launched in 2015 into egregious price spikes for prescription drugs. She said it will help prevent gigantic increases in prescription drug prices.

“Our legislation will help to foster a much healthier and more competitive marketplace as the best defense against such exploitation,” said Collins in a news release.

The report by the Senate Aging Committee, which Collins chairs, studied abrupt price increases for medications whose patents have already expired. It found that some companies have exploited market failures by acquiring decades-old, off-patent and previously affordable drugs and then raised prices at the expense of patients. When the report was released, Collins called the practice the “hedge fund” model of medication production and marketing.

The report also called for targeted generic drug importation, crackdowns on the misuse of patients assistance and coupon programs and more authority for the Federal Trade Commission to oversee drug company mergers. The report focused on four companies, including Turing Pharmaceuticals, which made international headlines when it raised the cost of an antiparasitic drug called Daraprim by 5,000 percent. Turing CEO Martin Shkreli then bragged publicly about the deal and said he would do it again if he could find another medication to do it with.

Shkreli became the target of international ire and on Friday, was convicted of a series of securities fraud charges and faces up to 20 years in prison.

The amendment by Collins and McCaskill is part of a much larger bill which, among other things, allows the FDA to accept user fees from manufacturers of drugs and medical devices for the next five years. Revenue from the fees will be used for product development, transparency measures and research. The bill received an unanimous recommendation from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which Collins is a member.

Collins said the bill will benefit senior citizens, who she said “take a disproportionate number of the prescription drugs that are prescribed in this country.”

A similar version of the Collins-McCaskill amendment passed in the U.S. House last month and now sits on Trump’s desk. Presumably, it’s on his desk at a golf course in New Jersey, where the president is taking a working vacation during renovations at the White House. Here’s the president’s soundtrack. — Christopher Cousins

Quick hits

  • Gov. Paul LePage has named a replacement for the finance chief he pushed out during state budget negotiations. The Republican governor announced Friday that he has nominated Alec Porteous, who is the chief operating officers and chief financial officer for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, as the new commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services. Porteous will serve as acting commissioner until LePage nominates a permanent replacement and that person is confirmed by the Senate later this year, according to a news release. David R. Lavway, who has served as acting commissioner since June 13 when former Commissioner Richard Rosen resigned suddenly after a meeting with LePage, will continue his role as deputy commissioner for operations. Porteous joined state government in May 2014 and has been heavily involved in budget development and negotiations. In the private sector, Porteous was a policy adviser on financial issues in the U.S. Capitol and worked for Collins from 2002 to 2005. Porteous holds degrees from Colby College and Cornell University. — Christopher Cousins
  • U.S. Sen. Angus King wants the Trump administration to rethink its position on expanding civil forfeiture. The Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats joined a bipartisan group of five other senators to send a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions after he announced earlier this month that the administration wants to increase forfeitures, particularly in cases of alleged drug crimes. Forfeiture policies have been criticized because they allow police to seize money and property before a conviction. King and his colleagues said it’s “inherently abusive.” Maine has some of the nation’s best laws protecting people from wrongful forfeitures, according to the Institute for Justice, a small-government advocacy group. — Michael Shepherd
  • Most of those new laws we’ve told you about all year will take effect in November. Suzanne Gresser, the Legislature’s revisor of statutes, sent a memo to officials last week reminding them that laws (excluding those passed as emergencies) passed in 2017 will go into effect on Nov. 1. That’s the constitutionally obligated date coming 90 days after the Legislature closed business for the year on Aug. 2. However, that was just a formality: Lawmakers are expected to be back this fall for a special session on the implementation of Maine’s voter-approved marijuana legalization law. — Michael Shepherd

Reading list

Best of Maine’s Craigslist

  • Help this man figure out where he got a black eye. A man was celebrating his birthday in Portland on Friday when he “blacked out” and ended up being kicked out of the nightclub Oasis with a black eye. He’s now “trying to piece together the night,” so let him know if you saw him.
  • It’s hard to read through the busted syntax, but this Biddeford guy just wants to meet up with a woman with a boyfriend. “Well We Were Standing Outside A Local Pizza Place This Beautfil Young Lady Came Walking By My God I Just Had To Say Something To Here Came To Find Out She Was Meeting Her Bf There Its Too Bad Was Going To Invite Her Out For Drinks And Food If Your Reading This Please Reach Out To Me.”
  • I wonder how people get this impression. A Portland man laments, “Its so damn hard to say hello to a woman when most think every man is a creeper.” A few minutes trawling through Craigslist’s “Missed Connections” section will make you think that. Here’s your soundtrack. — Michael Shepherd

Programming note

The Daily Brief team will continue its more relaxed summertime schedule by taking Tuesday off. That doesn’t mean we won’t report the news, though. Keep it tuned to for reports on politics in Maine.

With tips, pitches, questions or feedback, email us at If you’re reading The Daily Brief on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics and policy delivered via email every weekday morning.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.