WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Thursday that he is optimistic that Congress will pass legislation to significantly reduce prescription drug prices in the United States where consumers pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription medicine.
The Senate voted Wednesday on an amendment by Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to let pharmacists, wholesalers and individuals in the United States import low-cost medicine from Canada.
The amendment was blocked by a vote of 52 to 46. Sanders said he was encouraged that 12 Republicans voted for the amendment but disappointed that 13 Democrats voted no.
“The Democratic Party has got to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders said. “It is not acceptable that the five biggest drug companies made $50 billion in profits in 2015 while nearly 1 in 5 Americans cannot afford the medicine that their doctor prescribes.”
During the debate, Sanders highlighted dramatic price differences for identical drugs. The allergy treatment EpiPen, for example, costs $620 in the United States compared to $290 in Canada. A popular drug for high cholesterol, Crestor, costs $730 in the U.S. but $160 in Canada. Abilify, a depression medication, costs more than $2,626 for a 90-day supply in the U.S. but only $436 in Canada.
“I intend to be speaking to every Democrat who voted against the amendment to find out their concerns and look forward to them joining us in the future to help make prescription drugs more affordable,” Sanders said.
Sanders will soon introduce legislation with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) to significantly bring down drug prices in the U.S. by allowing Medicare, the health care program for seniors and people with disabilities, to negotiate with drugmakers for lower prices on medicine. Sanders' and Cummings’ legislation also would allow the importation of safe and affordable drugs from elsewhere.