Stop Sky­rock­et­ing Drug Prices, San­ders Says

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM - Burling­ton, VT

U.S. Sen. Bernie San­ders (I-Vt.) said yesterday he will in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to stop soar­ing in­creases in phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prices. Amer­i­cans, who al­ready pay the high­est prices for pre­scrip­tion drugs in the world, saw prices jump 12.6 per­cent last year, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices. That in­crease was more than dou­ble the rise in over­all med­i­cal costs.

“Amer­i­cans should not have to live in fear that they will go bank­rupt if they get sick. Peo­ple should not have to go with­out the med­i­ca­tion they need just be­cause their elected of­fi­cials aren’t will­ing to chal­lenge the drug and health care in­dus­try lobby,” San­ders said. The phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try spent nearly $230 mil­lion lob­by­ing Congress last year, some $65 mil­lion more than any other in­dus­try.

“Be­tween our gov­ern­ment's un­will­ing­ness to ne­go­ti­ate prices and its fail­ure to ef­fec­tively fight fraud, it’s no won­der drug prices are out of con­trol. We have got to make sure that ev­ery­one in this coun­try can af­ford the pre­scrip­tion drugs that they need to live healthy lives,” San­ders said.

San­ders said Congress should au­tho­rize the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices to ne­go­ti­ate drug prices with phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to bring down costs for Medi­care drug ben­e­fits. “We should use our buy­ing power to get bet­ter deals for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Other coun­tries do it. Why don’t we?”

He said there should be tougher penal­ties for drug com­pa­nies that com­mit fraud. “We should pass leg­is­la­tion which says that drug com­pa­nies lose their gov­ern­ment-backed mo­nop­oly on a drug if they are found guilty of fraud in the man­u­fac­ture or sale of that drug,” San­ders said.

To en­cour­age wider avail­abil­ity of more af­ford­able generic drugs, San­ders said Congress should ban the prac­tice of brand-name drug­mak­ers pay­ing po­ten­tial com­peti­tors to keep lower-priced generic sub­sti­tutes off the mar­ket. Brand-name drugs cost, on av­er­age, 10 times as much as gener­ics.

San­ders also would lower bar­ri­ers to the im­por­ta­tion of lower-cost drugs from other coun­tries. San­ders was the first mem­ber of Congress to take Amer­i­cans to Canada to pur­chase a pre­scrip­tion breast can­cer drug at a frac­tion of the cost charged in the United States for the same medicine.

San­ders and Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings (D-Md.) are in­ves­ti­gat­ing dra­matic re­cent hikes in the costs of many generic drugs. They in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion this year that would force com­pa­nies to pay re­bates to the Med­i­caid pro­gram if generic prices grew faster than in­fla­tion.

Ul­ti­mately, San­ders said, Congress should un­cou­ple re­search and de­vel­op­ment costs from drug prices by re­ward­ing in­no­va­tion with a prize.

“The sky­rock­et­ing prices of pre­scrip­tion drugs are an ex­am­ple of the web of bu­reau­cracy and red tape in the Amer­i­can health care sys­tem. What we need is a na­tional health care sys­tem that puts peo­ple ahead of prof­its and health ahead of spe­cial in­ter­ests,” said San­ders, who will soon in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to pro­vide a Medi­care-for-all, sin­gle-payer sys­tem to pro­vide health care for all Amer­i­cans.

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