WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 – Hours before a Senate vote Wednesday on a plan to rein in skyrocketing drug prices, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) agreed with President-elect Donald Trump’s sharp criticism of pharmaceutical companies.
Trump told a news conference Wednesday in New York that drugmakers are “getting away with murder.”
“You know what?” Sanders said in Senate floor speech soon afterward, “Mr. Trump is exactly right. Pharma is getting away with murder. Pharma has gotten away with murder for many, many decades.”
The Senate will vote later Wednesday on an amendment by Sanders that would permit pharmaceutical distributors and pharmacists to import low-cost medicine from Canada and other countries and sell the less expensive but identical drugs to customers in the United States.
The price differences are dramatic. EpiPen, for example, costs more than $600 in the United States compared to $290 in Canada for the exact same allergy treatment. A popular drug for high cholesterol, Crestor, costs $730 in the U.S. but $160 across the northern border. Abilify, a drug to treat depression, is more than $2,636 for a 90-day supply in the U.S. but only $436 in Canada.
Sanders’ proposal, slated to come up for a vote Wednesday, is an amendment to a budget resolution that the Senate is debating this week. Will Republican and Democratic senators “have the guts finally to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and their lobbyists and their campaign contributions and fight for the American consumer?” Sanders asked in his floor speech.
Sanders said he also 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 for importing drugs from Canada and elsewhere to the U.S.
“The American people pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said. The result is that in 2015, the top-five drug companies made $50 billion in profit, the top-10 CEOs in the pharmaceutical industry earned over $300 million. “But while the drug companies and their executives do phenomenally well, nearly 1 in 5 Americans are unable to afford the medicine that their doctors prescribe,” Sanders said.
To read Sanders’ amendment, click here.