Legislation to Lower Drug Prices Stalls in Senate

Some Republicans show support for Bernie Sanders’ amendment to legalize the importation of cheaper prescription drugs.

President-elect Donald Trump certainly made headlines when he said big pharma is “getting away with murder” in a recent press conference, and pharmaceutical stocks took a hit as a result.

Interestingly, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he agreed with Trump in a recent floor speech, which marks one of the few, if not only times, the senator has voiced support for Trump.

“You know what?” Sanders said in Senate floor speech, “Mr. Trump is exactly right. Pharma is getting away with murder. Pharma has gotten away with murder for many, many decades.”

Sanders has been the voice for many Americans struggling to pay for healthcare, and has also voiced support for a universal healthcare system. In the hopes of helping Americans pay for prescription drugs, he recently introduced an amendment that would allow pharmaceutical distributors and pharmacists to import low-cost drugs to sell in the United States, according to a press release from Sanders.

The price differences are drastic. In Canada, the EpiPen only costs $290, but the same treatment costs more than $600 in the United States. Crestor, used to treat high cholesterol, only costs $160 in Canada, but costs $730 in the United States.

Perhaps the most alarming, the depression drug Abilify costs more than $2636 for a 90-day supply in the United States, but only costs $436 in Canada, according to the release.

This proposed rule is an amendment to the recently passed budget resolution, and was introduced by Sanders and Sen Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

“The American people pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” Sanders said.

Although the Senate vote did not pass the amendment, Sanders said he is very optimistic that Congress will pass legislation to lower prescription drugs. The amendment was blocked by a vote of 52 to 46.

Interestingly, 12 Republicans voted in favor of the law, while 13 Democrats voted against the law. The Republican support for this measure is surprising, since they are usually against such legislation.

“The Democratic Party has got to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry,” Sanders said. “It is not acceptable that the five biggest drug companies made $50 billion in profits in 2015 while nearly 1 in 5 Americans cannot afford the medicine that their doctor prescribes.”

Sanders also plans to introduce new legislation with US Rep Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) that would drive down the price Medicare pays for prescription drugs. This would allow the government to negotiate lower drug costs, which is something both outgoing President Barack Obama and Trump have supported.

The measure would also legalize prescription drug importation from other countries to further drive down costs.

“I intend to be speaking to every Democrat who voted against the amendment to find out their concerns and look forward to them joining us in the future to help make prescription drugs more affordable,” Sanders concluded.