Decrying America's shameful status as the only industrialized nation on Earth that lets pharmaceutical giants hike drug prices without restraint, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Tuesday unveiled legislation that would crack down on Big Pharma's government-granted monopolies by requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to approve far cheaper generic competition if companies refuse to bring drug prices into line with international standards.
"Senator Sanders' and Representative Khanna's bill to fix our drug pricing system, signed into law, will save thousands of American lives."
—Hagop Kantarjian, M.D"No other country allows pharmaceutical companies to charge any price they want for any reason they want. Somebody in America today can walk into a pharmacy and find out that the medicine they have been using for years can double, triple, or quadruple literally overnight. That needs to change," Sanders declared in a statement. "The greed of the prescription drug industry is literally killing Americans and it has got to stop."
No other country allows pharma companies to charge any price they want for any reason they want. That has to change.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) November 20, 2018
Hailed as "big pharma's worst nightmare" by Social Security Works, the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act (pdf) would require the federal government to authorize generic competition for any brand name prescription drug with an average cost that exceeds the median price in the U.K., Canada, Germany, France, and Japan.
"There is absolutely no reason for the big pharmaceutical companies to make Americans pay higher prescription drug prices than they charge our friends in Canada, Germany, and the U.K."
—Rep. Ro KhannaAccording to a summary (pdf) of the new bill released by Sanders' office, "the median price of brand name prescription drugs could go down by about 43 percent and savings for certain brand name prescription drugs could be even greater" if the measure becomes law.
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"There is absolutely no reason for the big pharmaceutical companies to make Americans pay higher prescription drug prices than they charge our friends in Canada, Germany, and the U.K.," Khanna said in a statement. "Today we're sending Big Pharma a message: market exclusivity is a privilege, and when you abuse that by price gouging the sick and aging, then you lose that privilege."
While President Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to take decisive action to bring down soaring U.S. drug costs, his actions have consisted of toothless "pharma-friendly" steps that experts say would do little to nothing to lower drug costs.
By contrast, consumer advocates and medical professionals enthusiastically endorsed Sanders and Khanna's measure as a "critically important" and "game-changing" step toward ending pharma price gouging and creating a system that prioritizes human need over corporate profits.
Americans shouldn't have to ration access to treatment or go bankrupt to pay for the meds they need. https://t.co/cbY0Hu71X3
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) November 20, 2018
"Every year, countless Americans forgo treatment because the drugs that could save them cost hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Hagop Kantarjian, M.D, leukemia expert and non-resident fellow in health policy at Rice University's Baker Institute. "Senator Sanders' and Representative Khanna's bill to fix our drug pricing system, signed into law, will save thousands of American lives."