NEWS: Sanders, Khanna, Doggett, Welch, Bush Introduce Sweeping Legislation to Lower Drug Prices

Sanders Today Chairs Subcommittee Hearing on Pharma Greed

WASHINGTON, March 23 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Reps. Ro Khanna, (D-Calif.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), along with more than two dozen colleagues, on Tuesday introduced sweeping legislation to drastically reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the United States.

The package of bills includes: The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act to peg the price of prescription drugs in the United States to the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan; The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D; and The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act to allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.

“The United States pays by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. This is an immediate health crisis that must be addressed,” said Sanders, who is today chairing a Senate subcommittee hearing on the issue. “That is why I am reintroducing legislation to drastically reduce prescription drug prices in the United States. The time is now to stand up to the pharmaceutical industry and say enough is enough. The greed of drug companies is out of control and the cost is human lives.”

“In the wealthiest nation on planet Earth, no one should be choosing between paying for their medications or paying their rent,” said Rep. Khanna. “For-profit pharmaceutical companies have been price-gouging us for far too long. Health care is a human right. We must make drugs affordable to every American who needs them. Proud to join Sen. Sanders in reintroducing this critical legislation, essential in our work toward building a healthier, more equal America.”

“I am pleased to again join Sen. Sanders in his ongoing crusade against prescription price gouging by sponsoring the House companion to the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, previously led by our friend the late Elijah Cummings,” said Rep. Doggett. “Almost two decades ago, in a new law filled with bad policies, Big Pharma inserted a single sentence to prohibit any Medicare negotiation of drug prices. Unlike HR 3, approved in the House last Congress, today’s bill unequivocally repeals that prohibition. There are a number of solid ways to combat abusive pharma practices, some additional of which I will soon be introducing myself. But the key is working together to stand up to Big Pharma and not settle for a weak proposal that excludes most drugs from negotiation, ignores high launch prices, and denies meaningful relief to the uninsured. Failure to restrain the monopoly power of Big Pharma has caused so much pain and suffering and led to so many untimely deaths. Joining Sen. Sanders is an important way to push back.”

“Skyrocketing drug prices are hammering patients across America,” said Rep. Welch. “Lifesaving drugs, like insulin, aren’t helpful if Americans can’t afford them. Enough is enough. It’s time to end the monopoly and sweetheart deals that pharma enjoys at the expense of patients.”

“St. Louis sent me to Congress to save lives,” said Rep. Bush. “As a nurse, I’ve seen firsthand the harmful effects of patients not being able to afford their lifesaving medications. Today, with the introduction of this legislative package, we are standing up for the millions of people who are forced to ration their medicine or suffer in silence because of the inhumane, immoral, and inescapable cost of prescription medications. I am grateful to join Sen. Sanders, and Reps. Doggett, Khanna, and Welch in the effort to stop massive drug companies from putting profits over the lives of regular, everyday people.”

The measures are overwhelmingly supported by the American people. Seventy-two percent of Americans favor allowing the importation of prescription drugs from Canada, 92% of the American people support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, and 79% percent of Americans say the price of prescription drugs is too high.

The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, if enacted, would lower most brand name drug prices in the United States by 50%, according to economist Dean Baker. Additionally, the U.S. government could save close to $360 billion over 10 years if Medicare negotiated the same prices for drugs as people in Canada pay, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Last month, a report released by the Congressional Budget Office, commissioned by Sanders, found that on average Medicare Part D pays nearly three times more for brand-name drugs than Medicaid.

In 2020, five of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. made $44.9 billion in profits. That same year, in the midst of a horrific pandemic and economic crisis, drug makers raised their prices of more than 860 prescription drugs by 5%, on average. Meanwhile, one in four Americans cannot afford their medicine. 

In Canada and other major countries, the same medications, manufactured by the same companies in the same factories, are available for a fraction of the price compared to the United States. In 2019, Americans spent $1,128 per person on prescription drugs while Canadians spent $879 and people in the U.K. spent $526.

Sanders’ hearing in the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee subcommittee can be seen here at 10 a.m.

Cosponsors in the Senate of The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act include Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Cosponsors in the Senate of The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act include Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.),  Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Cosponsors in the Senate of The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act include Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore).

For a summary of The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act, click here. For full text, click here.

For a summary of The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, click here. For full text, click here.

For a summary of The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, click here. For full text, click here.