Sanders takes aim at high drug prices

Sanders takes aim at high drug prices

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDon't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the League of Conservation Voters — EPA finalizing rule cutting HFCs MORE (I-Vt.) and Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsFormer GOP congressional candidate Kimberly Klacik suing Candace Owens for defamation Former Cummings staffer unveils congressional bid McCarthy, GOP face a delicate dance on Jan. 6 committee MORE (D-Md.) on Monday introduced a bill aimed at lowering the taxpayer burden for rising generic drug prices. 

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Brand-name drug manufacturers are required by law to pay a rebate to Medicaid when their drug prices rise faster than inflation. Sanders and Cummings’s bill would extend this requirement to generic drug manufacturers. 

Sanders, who is challenging Hillary Clinton from the left for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, has long made curbing drug prices part of his push to reform what he calls an overly costly healthcare system. He has also pushed for government-run, “single-payer” health insurance for everyone. 

“It is unacceptable that Americans pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said in a statement. “For years, generic drugs have made it possible for people to buy the medicine they need at lower prices. We need to make certain that generics remain affordable.”

Generic drugs are viewed as a way to keep drug costs down by boosting competition, but Sanders and Cummings have been pointing to what they call troubling price spikes. 

A New England Journal of Medicine study notes, for example, that the price of the generic antibiotic doxycycline increased from 6.3 cents per pill to $3.36 per pill in the course of just a year. 

A recent Department of Health and Human Services inspector general report found that the current Medicaid rebate program for brand-name drugs has been successful in bringing down some of the cost to taxpayers, reducing by 47 percent the $35.7 billion cost of the drugs to Medicaid in 2012. 

The lawmakers say extending the rebates to generic drugs would save $1 billion over 10 years. 

“Doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and patients across the country have been raising the alarm about certain companies that are increasing the prices of their generic drugs without any explanation,” Cummings said in a statement.

“Our bill will extend the same price protections that already apply to brand name drugs to generic drugs purchased under Medicaid — and it will save $1 billion in taxpayer funds in the process.”