Two independent U.S. senators in Congress are teaming up to stop pharmaceutical companies from double-charging U.S. consumers for prescription drugs.
Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Angus King (I-ME) have introduced new legislation that will stop Big Pharma companies from using taxpayer money for research to develop drugs, and then charging taxpayers ridiculously high prices for the drugs they payed to have developed.
The new legislation would force drug manufacturers who take federal money to develop drugs to keep their pharmaceutical prices in line with the prices they charge in other economically advanced nations. Because they charge citizens of the United States astronomically higher prices for the same drugs, this would lower drugs prices in the United States significantly.
It is well known that both parties, Democrats and Republicans, receive millions from Big Pharma. This is perhaps why this type of legislation is being pushed by independent politicians.
Senator King has been working against Big Pharma for a while. In June, King successfully added an amendment to the 2018 military spending bill that allows the Department of Defense to take away exclusive patents from drug companies benefiting from DoD funding if their drug price in the United States is higher than the median price in seven foreign countries with similar economies.
Sanders’ new bill, introduced last week, takes this concept beyond the DoD. As Sanders states, “Under this insane system, Americans pay twice. First, we pay to create these lifesaving drugs, then we pay high prices to buy those drugs. Our government must stop being pushovers for the pharmaceutical industry and its 1,400 lobbyists.”
The new bill requires companies that received federal funds to develop new drugs to enter into “reasonable pricing” agreements with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. “Reasonable pricing” is defined as no more than the lowest prices charged in countries with GDP and per capita income similar to the U.S.
Sanders is hoping to get the legislation passed in time to stop Big Pharma company Sanofi Pasteur from receiving exclusive rights to sell a newly developed Zika vaccine.
This is a great first step, but taking down Big Pharma is going to be difficult. As Rachel Sachs, an associate professor at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law states, “It’s not so much the money we are actually spending through NIH. We are providing huge value to companies in tax credits, other incentives, expedited FDA approval, exclusivity agreements… all of these are benefits.”
The legislation also doesn’t address the issues of ties between Big Pharma and politicians. Big Pharma gives millions to political campaigns. One such politician receiving money is Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee, where Sanders’ bill has been sent. It will definitely be an uphill battle getting the legislation to pass. However, when the legislation has the support of the people and could potentially save billions of lives, we aren’t going to give up.