Stop Skyrocketing Drug Prices, Sanders Says
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.