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Sanders and Khanna have a plan to lower your drug prices

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From the reddest of red states to the bluest of blue, there is one unifying chorus that echoes across the United States: Prescription drug prices are too high. That’s why Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) have introduced a bill to lower drug prices for every single person in this country.

The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act would force drug companies to price medicines equal to or below the median price of the same drug in five countries: Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan. This legislation would lower drug prices for all Americans. In addition, regardless of the price in other countries, anybody who feels that their medicine is excessively priced can petition the government to lower the price. Most importantly, if companies refuse to lower their prices, then the federal government would allow generic competition in order to lower the price.

{mosads}Pharmaceutical corporations have spent decades wielding their political power against the best interest of the American people, with far too many members of Congress serving as their proxy employees. The result? Big Pharma’s monopoly power, and their explicit price gouging, grows worse with every passing year. But at long last, the tide is beginning to turn. People are demanding an end to outrageous drug prices, and political leaders are listening.

The 115th Congress shocked Pharma with the massive support of House Democrats for the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). This legislation calls for the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, seniors and people with disabilities. Doggett’s legislation is groundbreaking for the movement to lower drug prices. Doggett’s bill has over 100 co-sponsors along with explicit support from Democrats to use their new majority in the House of Representatives to lower drug prices.

But it is only the beginning of Pharma’s nightmare.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal about a future where only billionaires could afford needed medication, Zeke Emanuel states that, “FDA approval of every drug should be tied to national drug-pricing negotiations. No other developed country —including those without single-payer systems — allows drug companies to set the prices for their products, as we do in the U.S. Proposed legislation for Medicare negotiations — such as the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act of 2018, sponsored by Doggett — is a good starting point but only a partial solution. Most of the patients getting Kymriah [a cancer treatment that costs $373,000] are not on Medicare, and more than 175 million Americans have private insurance that would not be covered by Medicare negotiations. Any negotiated prices need to apply to all Americans, regardless of whether Medicare or a private insurer is paying.”

This is exactly right. Doggett’s bill to allow Medicare to negotiate prices is basic common sense, which is why the idea has the support of 90 percent of the American public. But most Americans aren’t on Medicare. No one deserves to be ripped off so some private equity Pharma Bro can buy another luxury yacht. And not a single person in the United States should die because they are rationing their insulin or other needed medication due to cost. A quick search for “insulin” at popular crowd fundraising platform GoFundMe begins to make apparent the magnitude of the rip off that pharmaceutical corporations are perpetrating on the American people.

Even Donald Trump understands the politics of the issue, which is why he says the right thing. Yet his actions, like putting big pharma CEO Alex Azar (whose company is under investigation for colluding to triple the price of insulin) in charge of Health and Human Services, show that pharma is in the driver’s seat of the Trump administration. Their policies have been complex smokescreens at best. More often, they are just straightforward lies, like that the drug corporations were going to voluntarily lower drug prices. These cheap political tricks become apparent when Pfizer raised the prices on 41 drugs days after the midterms and noted that continued price gouging would continue regardless of Trump’s tweeting.

The United States pays, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs of any country in the world. We even pay astronomical prices for drugs that were discovered using American taxpayer dollars. All Americans deserve lower prescription drug prices and Sanders and Khanna are leading the way to just that by introducing The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act of 2018.

It is also crystal clear that the only way we are going to defeat pharma’s corrupting money is with millions of Americans raising our voices together and demanding a change. The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act of 2018 offers the perfect flag for all of us to rally behind.

Alex Lawson is executive director of Social Security Works.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Lloyd Doggett Ro Khanna

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