Sanders and Cummings Introduce Drug Pricing Legislation

Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Representative Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, introduced legislation comprising 3 bills to curb the cost of prescription drugs.
 
Samantha DiGrande
January 14, 2019
Last week, Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Representative Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, introduced legislation comprising 3 bills to curb the cost of prescription drugs.

The proposals introduced by Sanders and Cummings would allow the US to price prescription drugs at the median price from 5 countries: Canada, Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, where drug prices are usually significantly lower than in the United States. The legislation included the ability to open up generic competition to patent-protected US brand-name drugs that have been deemed “excessively priced.” A medication could achieve this designation if its price in the US is higher than the median price in the 5 aforementioned countries.

“Today I say to President Trump, if you are serious about lowering the cost of prescription drugs in this country, support our legislation and get your Republican colleagues on board,” said Sanders at a Capitol Hill press conference.

The proposal echoes a similar proposition made my HHS Secretary Alex Azar in October 2018, the International Pricing Index, whereby Medicare would more closely align its payment amount for select Part B drugs with prices paid in other nations.

Additionally, the legislation newly introduced by Sanders and Cummings would also allow HHS to negotiate prices in Medicare Part D, as well as allow consumers import lower-priced medications from Canada.

Lobbying group the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) came out against the proposal, stating that it “would wreak havoc on the US healthcare system. They would interfere with patient access to medicine, while also undermining the US intellectual property system, replicating the flawed policies of foreign governments and circumventing the [FDA]’s robust safety standards.”

The administration did not immediately comment on the proposed legislation.

Addressing ever-increasing drug prices in the United States has become a main focus of US politics since early 2018 when the Trump administration began introducing proposals to bring down drug costs. The introduced policy changes have received criticism from both sides of the aisle, with some stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry alleging that the changes go further than legally allowed, while many Democrats have said the proposals don’t go far enough.

While several pharmaceutical companies temporarily froze prices on certain drugs last year, since the start of 2019 drug manufacturers have raised prices on more than 250 products, though most increases were under 10%.

 

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