U.S. House panel approves fourth bill aimed at drug prices

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FILE PHOTO: Pharmaceutical tablets and capsules are arranged on a table in this picture illustration taken in Ljubljana

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve a fourth bill aimed at tackling high drug prices, approving a measure that would make it easier for biosimilar drugs, cheaper versions of expensive biotech drugs, to come to market.

The same panel voted Wednesday to send three related bills to the House floor for consideration.

The four measures were part of a package introduced in April to help generic versions of drugs come to market. Brand name drugs can fairly quickly lose more than 80% of their sales revenue once multiple generic versions reach the market.

Biosimilar drugs are generic versions of biological products, which are usually large complex molecules from living organisms. They are harder to copy than small-molecule chemical medicines.

In April, four identical bills were introduced in the House and Senate aimed at lowering drug prices, each sponsored by at least one Republican and one Democrat.

The House Judiciary Committee had voted on Wednesday to enable the Federal Trade Commission to ban sham citizen petitions, in which drug companies petition the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about a generic company seeking approval for a rival drug with the goal of delaying its market entry.

They also approved a measure to stop product-hopping, the practice of making a minor tweak to the formula of a medication to win a new patent and therefore a longer period of exclusivity, and another to stop pay-for-delay patent deals.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the measures in July, all on a voice vote.

The bills must next be taken up by the full House and Senate.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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