Washington, DC-On Friday, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced legislation intended to penalize pharmaceutical companies believed to be engaging in price gouging without cause, leading to price spikes for patients who rely on medication to treat diseases ranging from cancer to addiction.
In a press release, the senators stated the Stop Price Gouging Act would hold drug companies accountable for large price increases and result in billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.
Brown and Gillibrand are introducing this bill in the Senate; Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
The Stop Price Gouging Act would:
· Require drug companies to report increases in drug prices and justify the increase.
· Penalize drug companies that engage in unjustified price increases with financial penalties proportionate to the price spike.
“The purpose of medicine is to help people, not to line the pockets of Big Pharma executives,” Brown said. “Too many hardworking Americans still struggle to afford the medicine they need, and often the culprit is price gouging by big pharmaceutical corporations. It has to stop. The Stop Price Gouging Act would protect Ohioans from prescription drug price spikes by requiring drug companies to report and justify their decisions to increase prices and prevent big pharma from price gouging.”
Brown also plans to introduce additional legislation with Doggett, the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
“Too many New Yorkers are suffering because drug companies care more about their own profits than whether sick patients have access to medicine. That is one of the root causes of our country’s skyrocketing prescription drug costs, and Congress needs to step in and solve this problem now,” Gillibrand said. “This urgently needed legislation would finally hold companies accountable and penalize them when they gouge the price of a prescription drug without cause. I am proud to introduce this bill, and I urge my colleagues to join me in fighting to pass it.”
“We must stand up to pharmaceutical companies more worried about lining their own pockets and bolstering profits for Wall Street investors than making sure patients can access the life-saving medications they produce,” added Kaptur. “As policymakers, we must shine a light on price gouging. The predatory pricing practice must stop. The health and well-being of millions of Americans depend on it.”
“Despite President Trump claiming victory on declining prescription drug prices, the costs of many drugs are still skyrocketing and becoming increasingly unaffordable for millions of Americans,” said Pocan. “The Stop Price Gouging Act will hold corporations accountable and protect consumers from egregious year-after-year price spikes that are far too common. While American families struggle over whether to pay an electric bill or buy life-saving medications, drug manufacturers and CEOs should not be making excessive profits. Members of Congress should immediately support this legislation and deliver results for the American people who are being hit with outrageous drug prices daily.”
Under current law, pharmaceutical corporations can increase the price of their products without justification. Brown and Gillibrand introduced this bill last Congress and said they would continue fighting to pass it this session of Congress.
The senators’ bill is part of what the pair advertised as their larger effort to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Americans, an effort they bragged as having been described as “every policy idea drug lobbyists hate.”
Any revenues collected through the Stop Price Gouging Act would be reinvested in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In 2018, Americans spent an all-time high of $360 billion on prescription drugs. Nearly one-third of Americans polled by the magazine Consumer Reports said they had experienced a drug price hike in the past year, shelling out a total of $2 billion more for a drug they routinely take. Their 2016 survey revealed 30 percent of Americans who experienced a hike in the price of one or more of their medications in the past year left a prescription unfilled because it was too expensive; 15 percent said they cut pills in half to make them last longer.
In December 2016, Brown and Gillibrand wrote to President Trump outlining specific steps they claim his administration could take to help Congress reduce prices for working Americans, including: allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate better prices for Medicare recipients; requiring drug companies to disclose costs associated with creating drugs so prices are more transparent; putting an end to abusive price gouging; and ensuring competition and innovation that will lead to greater competition and more affordable, effective drugs.