Senator Says Measure Would Hold Drug Companies Accountable For High Prices, Bring Down Costs for Seniors, Families and Taxpayers

WASHINGTON D.C. [06/12/19]—Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced comprehensive legislation to hold large pharmaceutical companies accountable for high prices and bring down costs for Americans.
Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, said her measure would promote transparency by requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose just how much money is going toward research and development, as well as marketing and pay for executives. Her bill would also end the restriction that prevents the federal Medicare program from using its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for its beneficiaries, and curb drug company monopoly practices that keep prices high and prevent less expensive generics from coming to the market.
You can read a summary of the bill here and a section-by-section of the legislation here.

Current Senate cosponsors of Sen. Smith’s bill include: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
“My bill is a comprehensive effort to bring prescription drug prices down—which is the number one thing Minnesotans talk to me about,” said Sen. Smith. “We need to improve competition, make the big drug companies tell us exactly how they’re spending all the money that they’re making and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices with these drug companies. Right now, these companies are just naming their price and Americans have to pay it. When you hear about people rationing their life-saving medication because they can’t afford the dosage recommended by their physicians, you know we have a real problem, and I want to fix it.”

“It’s time that we put patients before pharmaceutical companies and help Americans get the critical medications they need,” Klobuchar said. “The skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs have made many medications unaffordable for the people who need them. The Affordable Medications Act offers commonsense solutions to increase access, lower costs, and improve the affordability of prescription drugs.”

“Everywhere I go in Connecticut, hardworking men and women stop me to share their struggles with the rising cost of prescription drugs. In the richest nation on earth, people shouldn’t be forced to split pills, skip doses, or even stop treatment because of outrageous drug costs. This comprehensive, common sense bill will increase drug price transparency, crack down on price gouging, and boost biomedical innovation. Enacting these checks on Big Pharma’s greed will reduce the financial burden too many families face, and will ensure more patients in Connecticut and across America have access to affordable drugs,” said Sen. Blumenthal.

“For too long, Big Pharma has prioritized profits over patients, exploiting Ohioans and their families and forcing working families to make impossible decisions between putting food on the table and affording their child’s insulin. It’s time to put an end to Big Pharma’s abusive practices of price gouging consumers year after year and ensure Ohioans can afford the medications they need to live longer and healthier lives,” said Brown.

“Rising prescription drugs costs are squeezing families in every part of the country and putting them in the terrible position of deciding between medications they need and paying rent or putting food on the table,” said Senator Warren. “This legislation will help bring down costs for families by holding drug companies accountable for needless price hikes, preventing drug monopolies, and encouraging greater competition.”

“Families are struggling because of the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs,” Senator Hassan said. “From allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices, to permitting the safe importation of drugs from countries like Canada and blocking unfair drug monopolies, this comprehensive legislation will help hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable and lower costs for individuals and families across the country.”

“The soaring cost of prescription drugs is an enormous burden on the middle class, especially for seniors living on fixed incomes,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our Affordable Medications Act combines hugely popular commonsense reforms to bring down drug prices, spur innovation, and check the runaway power of the pharmaceutical industry.”

“Americans are dying because they can’t afford the sky-high costs of live-saving prescriptions,” Merkley said. “That’s unacceptable, and it’s time for Congress to stand up for American families by holding accountable pharmaceutical corporations that charge consumers exorbitant prices. This legislation would enforce transparency in the pharmaceutical industry, crack down on drug company monopolies, and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices—three critical steps in solving this crisis."

“Wisconsinites are struggling to afford the lifesaving medications they need because drug companies are raising the costs of prescription drugs,” said Senator Baldwin. “I’m working with Senator Smith to make health care more affordable by holding Big Pharma accountable and lowering the costs of prescription drugs for patients and taxpayers. The Affordable Medications Act would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate lower prices and create more competition in the market to bring down prescription drug prices. Lowering health care costs is a top priority for families and our reforms offer solutions.”

“Prescription drug prices are out of control, and unless Congress does something to rein in Big Pharma, then American patients will continue to suffer the consequences,” Durbin said. “Today’s bill would implement reforms that Americans across the political spectrum want - like letting Medicare negotiate drug prices, ending unfair monopolies that limit competition in the prescription drug industry, and increasing transparency. We need to step up to the plate and deliver something that ends the burden of sky high drugs costs for Americans, and I’m proud to have helped draft this important proposal with my colleagues.”

“People all over our country are struggling with the high cost of medication. Congress needs to do more to protect Americans from skyrocketing prescription drug prices, and I’m proud to partner with my colleagues to introduce the Affordable Medications Act,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bill includes my legislation, the Stop Price Gouging Act, to finally hold drug companies accountable for driving up the price of prescription drugs and to help ensure all patients have access to affordable medications. Too many companies care more about their own profits than whether sick patients have access to medicine, and I’m calling on Congress to address this crisis and support this urgently needed legislation.”

Sen. Smith said that due in part to these high prices, spending on retail prescription drugs is expected to reach $360.3 billion this year. This spending drives up the overall cost of health care, making insurance premiums increasingly unaffordable and placing an unnecessary burden on taxpayers. 
Sen. Smith said her bill, the Affordable Medications Act, is a comprehensive set of reforms that will help lower prices by:

•       Requiring pharmaceutical companies to report how much they spend on research and development, advertising, marketing, and CEO pay;
•       Making drugs more affordable by allowing Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate lower prices; penalizing drug companies that spike drug prices; and allowing for the safe importation of cheaper drugs from other countries, like Canada;
•       Creating an innovation fund for new antibiotics and publicly funding clinical trials for new drugs to spur innovation; 
•       Blocking unfair and anticompetitive drug monopoly practices and helping more low-cost generic competitors come to market.

Cutting Health Care Costs and Increasing Access to Quality Care a Top Priority

Sen. Smith has made bringing down health care costs and increasing access to quality health care one of her top priorities. Her first bill took aim at a big pharma tactic that keeps affordable generic drugs out of the hands of Minnesota families and seniors. And she’s introduced legislation to require pharmaceutical companies to disclose how they’re using the billions in tax breaks they’ve received. Last month, a number of measures championed by Sen. Smith were included in a bipartisan package to address the rising cost of health care released by the Senate Health Committee—on which she serves—including Sen. Smith’s efforts to help bring lower-cost insulin and generic drugs to market. Both her bipartisan Protecting Access to Biosimilars Act and the Ensuring Innovation Act were added to the package, and her work with colleagues to increase price transparency by strengthening health care databases was also included.
Sen. Smith is a co-chair of the Senate’s bipartisan Rural Health Caucus. And during the Senate Farm Bill debate, she secured a provision to create a Rural Health Liaison at USDA, which will work with other federal health officials to address rural America’s health care needs.