‘Enough is enough’: Sanders, Klobuchar unveil bill to slash drug prices in half

"We can no longer tolerate policies that make prescription drugs unaffordable and out of reach—Congress must act."

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SOURCECommon Dreams

With eyes on ultimately empowering Medicare to leverage its prodigious purchasing power to negotiate lower U.S. medication prices, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar on Wednesday unveiled legislation that would let the federal health insurance program pay the same for prescription drugs as the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

“The time to act is now. It’s time for the Senate to have a debate and a vote to bring down the outrageous price of prescription drugs.”

The Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act would require pharmaceutical companies who want their medicines covered by Medicare to make their drugs available to the program at the same cost or cheaper than what the V.A. pays for them. 

“For far too long, it has not been Congress that has been regulating the pharmaceutical industry, it has been the pharmaceutical industry that has been regulating Congress,” Sanders said on the Senate floor. “Well, those days will be coming to an end today if we finally have the courage to stand up to them.”

Klobuchar added that “we can no longer tolerate policies that make prescription drugs unaffordable and out of reach—Congress must act.”

“Last month alone, drug companies hiked the prices of 742 drugs in the U.S., including some of the world’s bestselling drugs like Humira,” she noted. “We know how to bring down the cost of these medications, and every day that goes by without implementing meaningful reform is a day too long. This bill that Sen. Sanders and I are introducing will get this done.”

Sanders said that for decades, “members of both political parties have come to the floor of the Senate and the House, bemoaning the high cost of prescription drugs in this country and promising the American people that they would lower those outrageous prices. They have given speech after speech and spent millions on 30-second campaign ads telling their constituents all that they were going to do to take on the pharmaceutical industry. And for decades they have failed to deliver.” 

Sanders continued:

They have failed to deliver because of the greed of the pharmaceutical industry—which today may well be the most powerful corporate interest in America and is certainly the dominant political force here in Washington, D.C.

My fellow Americans: Do you want to know why you’re paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, sometimes 10 times more for the same exact drug that is sold in Canada and other countries?

Do you want to know why one out of four Americans are unable to afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe?

Do you want to know why thousands of Americans die every year because they can’t afford their medicine? 

Do you know why millions of diabetic Americans actually ration their insulin?

I will tell you why. During the past 20 years, the pharmaceutical industry has spent over $4.5 billion on lobbying and hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions.

Sanders noted that “eight of the largest drug companies in the United States made nearly $50 billion in profits in 2020, while the CEOs in those pharmaceutical giants took home over $350 million in total compensation.”

“Let’s be very clear,” he said. “The overriding motivation of the pharmaceutical industry is greed. Their overriding goal is to make as much money as they can by squeezing as much as they possibly can out of the sick, out of the elderly, and out of the desperate.”

“Enough is enough,” said Sanders. “A lifesaving prescription drug does not mean anything if you cannot afford to buy that drug. We cannot allow the pharmaceutical industry to charge the American people, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”

“That is why I have introduced legislation today with Sen. Klobuchar that would cut the price of prescription drugs under Medicare in half,” he added. “And it would do that by making sure that Medicare pays the same low prices for prescription drugs as the V.A. does.”

Noting that over 80% of polled Americans support letting Medicare negotiate cheaper drug prices, Sanders asserted that “the time for talk is over.”

“The time to act is now,” he added. “It’s time for the Senate to have a debate and a vote to bring down the outrageous price of prescription drugs.”

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