Scroll down for Bernie Sanders’ video on his legislation to lower soaring drug prices.
Norway, an oil producer with one of the world’s richest economies, is an expensive place to live. A Big Mac costs $5.65. A gallon of gasoline costs $6.
But one thing is far cheaper than in the U.S.: prescription drugs.
A vial of the cancer drug Rituxan cost Norway’s taxpayer-funded health system $1,527 in the third quarter of 2015, while the U.S. Medicare program paid $3,678. An injection of the asthma drug Xolair cost Norway $463, which was 46% less than Medicare paid for it.
Drug prices in the U.S. are shrouded in mystery, obscured by confidential rebates, multiple middlemen and the strict guarding of trade secrets. But for certain drugs—those paid for by Medicare Part B—prices are public. By stacking these against pricing in three foreign health systems, as discovered in nonpublic and public data, The Wall Street Journal was able to pinpoint international drug-cost differences and what lies behind them.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) today introduced legislation to address skyrocketing increases in prescription drug prices.
Americans, who already pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world, saw prices jump more than 12 percent last year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That increase was more than double the rise in overall medical costs. Nearly one in five Americans did not fill a prescription last year because they could not afford it.
“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 on lobbying last year, some $65 million more than any other industry, and employed over 1,400 registered lobbyists.
“In light of 1,000 percent price increases – and more – American families are fed up with trying to afford their medications as they watch drug companies rake in record profits,” Ranking Member Cummings said. “This commonsense and comprehensive bill will reverse this alarming trend, help put people before profits, and make lifesaving drugs more affordable and accessible to millions of Americans families.”
The Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015 authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to bring down costs for Medicare drug benefits. The bill also includes tougher penalties for drug companies that commit fraud and bans the practice of brand name drugmakers paying competitors to keep lower-priced generic substitutes off the market. The bill also lowers barriers to the importation of lower-cost drugs from Canada.
“We should use our buying power to get better deals for the American people. Other countries do it and so should we,” Sanders said.
The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). The legislation is supported by the Alliance for Retired Americans, Social Security Works, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, National Center for Health Research, Public Citizen, Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, and RxRights, representing the voices of millions of Americans.
Click here to read the bill.
Click here to read the fact sheet on the bill.
Click here to read Sen. Sanders’ prepared remarks.