Sanders introducing bill to fight high drug prices

Sanders introducing bill to fight high drug prices

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFunding confusion complicates Meals on Wheels budget fight The Hill's 12:30 Report Five takeaways from the Montana special election MORE (I-Vt.) on Thursday announced the introduction of legislation to fight high prescription drug prices, calling out pharmaceutical companies for their “greed.”

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Sanders, who is challenging Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonClinton marches in Chappaqua Memorial Day parade Macron labels Russian media outlets as ‘propaganda’ Trump: Portland attacks ‘unacceptable’ MORE for the Democratic presidential nomination, is introducing the Prescription Drug Affordability Act alongside Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)

The bill would allow the Medicare prescription drug program to negotiate prices with drug companies, a practice that is currently banned under a 2003 law.

It requires drug companies to report information about factors that affect pricing, such as research and development costs. Pharmaceutical companies say they are producing groundbreaking new cures that are difficult and expensive to develop, but Sanders said this provision would challenge them to provide evidence about their costs of production. 

Sanders framed the issue within his focus on income inequality. 

“The time has come to say very loudly and clearly that 'enough is enough,' the greed of the pharmaceutical industry is killing Americans and making many of them much sicker than they otherwise would have been,” Sanders said at a press conference. 

He said his goal is “implementing prescription drug policies that work for everybody, not just the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry.”

“Ensuring patients have access to the health care they need is critical," PhRMA spokeswoman Holly Campbell said in a statement responding to Sanders's proposal. "But short-sighted policies that would hinder access and slow the development of innovative medicines to help patients live longer, healthier lives is not the answer."

She said a competitive marketplace helps keep prices low through negotiations with payers and competition from lower-cost generic drugs.

The bill is unlikely to move in a Republican-controlled Congress, but Sanders pointed out that at least one provision, importing cheaper drugs from Canada, has in the past won support from Sen. John McCainJohn McCainMcCain: Putin a greater threat than ISIS Trump’s defense spending boom that wasn’t Defense hawks gird for budget brawl MORE (R-Ariz.), who has sponsored legislation on the subject. 

“I know some people will ask why we are doing this when it is clear Republicans will oppose our efforts,” Cummings said. 

But he pointed to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from April showing that a higher percentage of Republicans prioritize making high-cost drugs affordable (66 percent) than repealing ObamaCare (60 percent).  

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says that prescription drug spending increased 12.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 2002 and more than twice the increase in overall health spending. 

This story was updated at 11:53 a.m.