Prescription Drugs

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) chairs a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging on October 10, 2013.

Senator Sanders believes every American should have access to safe, effective, and affordable prescription medications.

Senator Sanders is fighting to lower costs for consumers by bringing greater transparency and competition to the health care system. In October 2014, he and Representative Elijah Cummings launched an investigation into 14 pharmaceutical companies after reports of the skyrocketing prices for some generic drugs. As a result of that investigation, the lawmakers introduced S. 1364, the Medicaid Generic Drug Price Fairness Act, which became law at the end of 2015. This law requires generic drug companies to provide rebates to the Medicaid program if drug prices rise faster than the rate of inflation.  The provision is estimated to save $1 billion over ten years.

Senator Sanders also introduced S. 2023 in the 114th Congress, the Prescription Drug Affordability Act. The bill would instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to bring down costs for the Medicare program, prohibit brand name drug makers from paying competitors to keep lower-priced generic substitutes off the market, and make it easier to import lower-cost drugs from Canada.  The bill also creates tougher penalties for drug companies that commit fraud by terminating market exclusivity for any products made by companies convicted of federal fraud, such as off-label promotion, kickbacks, anti-monopoly practices, and Medicare fraud.  Moreover, to make drug pricing more transparent, pharmaceutical companies would be required to disclose the total costs of research and development and clinical trials, as well as the portion of drug development expenses offset by tax credits or paid by federal grants. 

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”

- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sen. Sanders has worked to reduce the pharmaceutical industry's influence over the drug approval process. In 2012, he was the only senator to vote against the Food and Drug Administration user fee bill because it did not do enough to address high prescription drug prices and was too generous to the pharmaceutical industry. In 2016, he opposed the 21st Century Cures Act because the bill cut Medicare and Medicaid to pay for corporate giveaways to the pharmaceutical industry.

Sen. Sanders was the first member of Congress to take his constituents across the Canadian border to buy their prescription drugs at a fraction of the price they were forced to pay in the United States. He believes importing FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada and other countries is a safe way to improve competition in the marketplace and reduce the price of prescription drugs.