Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill to Address High Drug Prices

By Victoria Kim 09/22/15

The presidential upstart wants more transparency with Big Pharma.

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Senator Bernie Sanders
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Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation that would require greater transparency from prescription drug companies in an effort to make prescription drugs more affordable.

“There is no rational reason why Americans should pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month. “The result of that is people are dying and becoming much sicker because they can’t afford the medicines they need.”

The bill, which Sanders introduced in early September with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), would affect the Medicare prescription drug program. Under current law, the Medicare prescription drug program is not allowed to negotiate prices with drug companies. But if passed, the law would empower Medicare to negotiate prices of pharmaceuticals.

The bill would also require drug companies to back up their prices with proof and submit annual reports to the federal government with information about factors that affect pricing such as research and development costs.

Drug companies would also be required to disclose any federal benefits they have received such as tax credits and pricing information about drugs sold overseas, the Wall Street Journal reports. Another provision would allow consumers to import cheaper drugs from Canada, an idea that’s won support from Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the past.

The Vermont independent vying for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination says it’s only fair to negotiate pharmaceutical prices. “Medicare pays for a huge amount of drugs. So it’s all the sense in the world to say, ‘Let’s sit down and negotiate,’” Sanders said.

In a summary of the bill released by Sanders' office, the proposed legislation cites an estimate by the Center for Economic and Policy Research that Medicare could save $230 billion to $541 billion over 10 years by directly negotiating prices.

Sanders says his goal is to implement “prescription drug policies that work for everybody, not just the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry.”

However, industry trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, says the proposed bill is nice in theory, but may slow the development of crucial drugs.

“Short-sighted attempts to arbitrarily cap spending would send a signal to researchers and investors that innovation is no longer valued and would result in fewer treatment options for patients,” said PhRMA spokesperson Holly Campbell in a statement.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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