U.S. Sen. Tina Smith Announces Comprehensive Bill To Address Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Prices

DULUTH, MN [08/08/18]—U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said today that for far too long the health and financial well-being of families in Minnesota and across the country has been harmed by the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs, and she announced plans to introduce legislation designed to hold large pharmaceutical companies accountable for high prices and bring down costs for both consumers and taxpayers.

Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, made her announcement at a “Health Care Cost” listening session in Duluth, where she met with local care providers and health experts as well as residents from across the region to hear about the impact of high health care costs. She said her new measure will increase transparency for drug companies that are setting high prices, end the restriction that prevents the federal Medicare program from using its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for its beneficiaries, and stop drug company monopoly practices that keep prices high and prevent less expensive generics from coming to the market.

“The number one issue I hear about from Minnesotans is the cost of health care, and specifically the cost of prescription drugs,”said Sen. Smith. “High prescription drug prices are forcing too many families to choose between the medications they need to survive and other life necessities, like groceries or rent. In fact, more than one in five Americans report that they or a family member didn’t fill a prescription because it was too expensive.”

Sen. Smith said that due in part to these high prices, spending on retail prescription drugs reached $328 billion in 2016, a nearly 30 percent increase from 2010. 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:

  • Increasing transparency, holding pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in setting high prices.
  • Increasing affordability by allowing Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate lower prices; hold drug companies for spiking drug prices; and allowing for the safe importation of cheaper drugs from other countries, like Canada.
  • Spurring innovation by creating a prize fund for new antibiotics and publicly funding clinical trials for new drugs.
  • And protecting competition by blocking unfair and anticompetitive drug monopolies and helping more 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 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 torequire pharmaceutical companies to disclose how they’re using the billions in tax breaks they’ve received. Last week, she introduced legislation to ensure students in Minnesota and across the country can access mental health services in their schools.

Sen. Smith is also 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.