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WASHINGTON — With little fanfare and minimal debate, a key Senate committee voted Thursday to advance legislation that aims to spur the development of new generic drugs and in turn, lower drug prices.

A bipartisan majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee overwhelmingly passed the legislation, known as the CREATES Act, by a 16-5 vote. The legislation seeks to give generic companies a way to sue brand- name drug makers when they inappropriately deny access to samples of their products, which generic makers need to develop their competing drugs.


Supporters, which include many Trump administration officials and a host of other health industry groups, including generic manufacturers, say the bill is an important component of federal efforts to lower prescription drug prices and end brand-drug makers’ “shenanigans.” Opponents, including the brand-drug maker trade group PhRMA, worry that the legislation could encourage frivolous lawsuits and in turn, drive up costs for patients.

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