Sanders, Khanna to Introduce Legislation to Drastically Lower Prescription Drug Prices

BURLINGTON, Vt., Nov. 20 – At a time when one in five American adults cannot afford to get the prescription medication they need, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) announced they will introduce the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act at the start of the new Congress to significantly reduce prescription drug prices for Americans.

This bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make sure that Americans don’t pay more for prescription drugs than the median price in five major countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan. If pharmaceutical manufacturers refuse to lower drug prices below that level, the federal government would approve cheaper generic versions of those drugs, regardless of any patents or market exclusivities in place.

If this legislation were to become law, the median price of brand name prescription drugs could go down by more than 40 percent, and savings for certain brand name prescription drugs could be even greater.

“No other country allows pharmaceutical companies to charge any price they want for any reason they want. Somebody in America today can walk into a pharmacy and find out that the medicine they have been using for years can double, triple or quadruple literally overnight. That needs to change,” Sanders said. “The greed of the prescription drug industry is literally killing Americans and it has got to stop.”

“There is absolutely no reason for the big pharmaceutical companies to make Americans pay higher prescription drug prices than they charge our friends in Canada, Germany, and the UK. Today we’re sending big pharma a message: market exclusivity is a privilege, and when you abuse that by price gouging the sick and aging, then you lose that privilege,” Khanna said. “This bill will bring down drug prices by taking on monopolies and boosting prescription drug competition.”

President Donald Trump said repeatedly during his campaign that he would take action against drug companies and bring down prices. But in the first seven months of 2018 alone, there were 96 drug price hikes for every price cut. And on Friday, Pfizer announced it is planning to raise prices on 41 more drugs in January.

Earlier this year, Trump proposed a pilot program to gradually lower the prices of certain drugs covered by Medicare Part B to international price levels. But his proposal does not help the more than 150 million Americans who get private health insurance from their employer, many of whom struggle with high deductibles and copayments, or the more than 30 million Americans who are uninsured and must pay the full cash price of their prescription drugs at the pharmacy. Sanders and Khanna’s legislation would address the needs of both of those populations.

Click here to read the Senate version of the bill. Click here to read the House version.

Click here for a section-by-section summary of the bill.

Click here for a one-page summary of the bill.


 Statements of Support for the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act

James Love, Director, Knowledge Ecology International
“This bill provides the mechanism necessary to ensure that when prices are excessive, the legal monopoly rather than the patient is put at risk. Patents are privileges and when those privileges are abused, the remedy should not be to deny insurance coverage for an expensive drug. Every time the federal government has been asked to use 28 USC 1498 to address an excessive price, the risks regarding compensation have been raised as an excuse to not act. This bill would greatly enhance the government’s leverage to end or threaten to end legal monopolies in order to curb excessive prices. It would also very effectively end the practice of charging U.S. consumers more than other high income countries, since no company would want to lose its legal monopoly as a consequence of charging U.S. residents prices higher than in the reference countries.”

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen
“American consumers pay far too much for drugs, not because it is costly to manufacture them, or even because of the expense of research and development. We pay too much because the U.S. government grants patents and other monopolies to brand-name drug makers, and then stands aside as Big Pharma exploits those monopolies to price gouge consumers and the government itself. This bill would end Big Pharma ripoffs by relying on generic competition as the cure for brand name companies’ unconscionable pricing. This is a common-sense, market-based solution so that consumers no longer have to ration access to treatment (one in six Americans report skipping prescriptions because of cost issues) or go into debt to pay for the medicines they need. We applaud Senator Sanders and Representative Khanna for their leadership and will be working to build support for their legislation.”

Josh Nelson, Co-Director, CREDO Action
“Big Pharmaceutical companies have been been price-gouging and taking advantage of The American people for far too long. This legislation is a crucial step toward Congress finally holding Big Pharma accountable and ensuring that everyone can access and afford the medications they need.”

Stephanie Taylor, Co-Founder, Progressive Change Campaign Committee
“Senator Sanders and Rep. Khanna are working to bring down the price of prescription drugs for working families with this critically important bill. Right now pharmaceutical companies charge outrageous prices for drugs that were created with research paid for with public tax dollars — so Americans are paying twice. This bill will help stop this giant rip-off by pharmaceutical companies.”

Alan Minsky, Executive Director, Progressive Democrats of America
“Progressive Democrats of America strongly endorses the Sanders/Khanna Drug Pricing Bill. We desperately need this legislation to prevent price gouging and profiteering as widely reported in U.S. media. Currently, pharmaceutical corporations overcharge U.S. patients and taxpayers—often at several multiples of prices in other nations such as Canada and the U.K., and far in excess of the costs to develop and market these medications. This legislation would stabilize and lower the costs we pay and bring pricing into line with the prices paid in the rest of the world.”

Alex Lawson, Executive Director, Social Security Works
“The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act will lower drug prices for every American by requiring drug corporations to charge us the same price as in other countries whose governments don’t let pharma rip them off. If a company won’t lower prices or tries to restrict access, this bill will allow generic competition to lower the prices and maintain access. In addition, regardless of the price in other countries, anybody who feels that their medicine is excessively priced will be able to petition the government to lower it. Many members of Congress say they want to lower drug prices. Now it’s time for them to match their words with action by supporting this bill.”

Charles King, Co-Founder and CEO, Housing Works
“Getting a handle on excessive drug pricing is crucial to efforts to get high-quality, low-cost healthcare to every person in the United States. We fully support this bill and other initiatives to stop abuse of the patent monopoly system. If a pharmaceutical corporation is charging more in the U.S. than in other wealthy countries for the same product, then we must revoke its government-granted monopoly. As a healthcare provider to thousands of low-income people with HIV, and an advocate for universal healthcare, we support of measures like this that will put patients first.”

Diane Archer, President, Just Care
“Any way you cut it, drug prices in this country are simply too high. The Sanders/Khanna bill offers Congress an unprecedented opportunity to guarantee fair drug prices for everyone. It ensures that brand name drugs sold in the United States are priced at the same level as they are in other wealthy countries. And, it would cut our drug bills in half.”

Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., prominent leukemia expert and non-resident fellow in health policy at Rice University Baker Institute
“Every year, countless Americans forgo treatment because the drugs that could save them cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Pharmaceutical companies justify these exorbitant prices with the myth of the billions they spend on R&D, while drug company executives and board members take home hundreds of millions of dollars in annual compensation. The reality is that 85 percent of research is done publicly through federal funding and grants, with private companies  capitalizing in later stages of research on these discoveries to command  excessive and unjustified profits from the most vulnerable in our society – the sick, the poor, and the old. Senator Sanders’ and Representative Khanna’s bill to fix our drug pricing system, signed into law, will save thousands of American lives.”

Other Endorsing Organizations:
People Demanding Action
Center for Medicare Advocacy