Senate Legislation Seeks to Limit Cost of Drugs Funded by Government

Sen Bernie Sanders and Rep Peter DeFazio seek fair pricing agreements for drugs funded by taxpayers.

Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep Peter DeFazio (D-OR) recently proposed an amendment that would put a stop to price gouging on prescription drugs and related products that were funded through taxpayer dollars, according to a press release.

The amendment to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 was first introduced by the Congressmen 2 decades ago. They are reintroducing it after Sanofi Pasteur introduced a costly Zika vaccine that was developed with more than $1 billion in taxpayer dollars, Sanders reported.

The US Army is currently offering the manufacturer a license to develop and market the Zika vaccine. Sanofi has received $43 million from the Department of Health and Human Services for the vaccine, with more than $130 million still owed, according to the release.

Despite American taxpayer funding, Sanders reported that Sanofi will not agree to a fair pricing agreement proposed by the Army; however, it is unknown how much the manufacturer invested in the research and development process for the vaccine and how costly it is to manufacturer, which may play a role in pricing decisions, according to the release.

“Americans should not be forced to pay the highest prices in the world for a vaccine we spent more than $1 billion to help develop,” Sanders said. “Sanofi gets more than one-third of its roughly $34 billion in revenues from the United States alone, and its CEO made nearly $5 million in salary last year. Yet they have rejected the US Army’s request for fair pricing. That is simply unacceptable.”

The amendment would require federal entities to obtain reasonable pricing agreements from manufacturers prior to granting them exclusive rights to manufacture and market prescription vaccines, drugs, or other related products.

Up to one-third of studies investigating experimental drugs are funded by taxpayer money, according to the release. There are currently no safeguards to prevent these drugs from being charged at a high cost to Americans.

"Sanofi and the rest of the pharmaceutical industry cannot be allowed to make huge profits on the backs of working class Americans, many of whom cannot afford the medication they are prescribed,” Sanders said. “The days of allowing Sanofi and other drug makers to gouge American consumers after taking billions in taxpayer money must end. That is why I am introducing legislation to demand fairer, lower prices for the Zika vaccine and for every drug developed with government resources. This is a fight that we cannot afford to lose.”

However, it is unclear how the amendment would affect research and development for pharmaceutical companies.