It is unacceptable that people in the U.S. are going without needed medicines because they can’t afford them. On March 28, Senator Al Franken, along with Sheldon Whitehouse, Sherrod Brown, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Tammy Baldwin and nine other Senators introduced a new bill in Congress aimed at reining in drug prices. The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act would protect Americans from pharmaceutical industry greed through several means:
- Medicare negotiation of fair drug prices and setting lower out-of-pocket costs for older adults and people with disabilities.
- Legal importation of safe and affordable drugs.
- Ending drug company monopoly power that leads to exorbitant prices.
- Increasing competition in the generic drug market.
- Keeping drug companies from increasing drug prices excessively from one year to the next.
- Taking away drug company tax deductions for direct-to-consumer TV and internet ads.
- Limiting the amount health insurers can charge people out-of-pocket for prescription drugs.
- Requiring greater transparency by drug companies.
High drug prices put both people’s finances and people’s health at risk. Twenty percent of Americans say they have not been able to fill prescriptions because of the costs. People with disabilities who rely on Social Security are particularly at risk. Out-of-pocket health care costs have been growing far faster than Social Security’s cost of living adjustments for the last 25 years. It’s not surprising that reining in drug prices is a top policy priority for Americans.
There is no good reason drug prices are as high as they are in the U.S.. We spend nearly $1,000 per person on prescription drugs, substantially more than every other developed country. Generic drugs are also increasingly unaffordable, with many costing more than $100 per prescription.
Contrary to what people may hear from the drug industry and its allies, high prices do not reflect the cost of innovation. Taxpayer dollars largely subsidize pharmaceutical research and development, with little risk to drug companies. Net profits for drug companies are greater than those of any other industry. Profits in 2015 for the five largest drug companies were more than $50 billion.
Most Americans have two healthcare priorities, according to recent polling: lowering health care costs and lowering prescription drug prices. The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act would accomplish both. Politicians in DC should listen to the American people.