Congressional Corner: Tackling the High Cost of Prescription Drugs

Congressional Corner: Tackling the High Cost of Prescription Drugs

By Senator Amy Klobuchar, (D-MN)

In St. Paul, Minnesota, Clare’s arthritis is getting worse — because she can’t afford the medication she needs to treat it. The price of Remicade, which Clare had relied on to treat her condition, jumped from $60 to $1,400 overnight. Paying for that treatment every four weeks is devastating for a senior on a fixed income, so she’s had to forego it.

Unfortunately, Clare’s is just one of many stories that underscore the need to rein in skyrocketing prescription drugs costs.

And that’s exactly what I intend to do. Since I was first elected to the Senate, this issue has been a top priority. I’ve proposed several common sense measures to help consumers — including my Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, which would give Medicare the legal authority to negotiate directly with drug companies for the best prices.

Right now, the VA health system can negotiate drug prices, but the law bans Medicare from doing the same. That’s a bad deal for more than 40 million seniors who participate in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, and for the rest of us as well. If we allow Medicare to bargain for price discounts, we may be able to save taxpayers’ money. There are a few more legislative solutions that we need to pass, too.

Canadians often pay much less for prescription drugs than we do. In 2015, average prescription drug prices in Canada were less than half the prices in the United States. These are the same drugs, same safety standards, and the same dosages sold here. I joined Republican Senator John McCain to push for a bipartisan fix. Our bill would require the Food and Drug Administration to allow Americans to import a 90-day supply of prescription drugs from an approved Canadian pharmacy.

Finally, let’s unleash competition by cracking down on illegal “pay-for-delay” deals. These agreements happen when a brand-name drug company pays a would-be generic drug competitor not to sell its products. These deals keep affordable generic drugs off the market, robbing consumers of lower — cost generic drugs. Letting generic drugs enter the market more quickly would save taxpayer dollars when the government purchases lower — cost generic substitutes. That’s why I teamed up with Republican Senator Chuck Grassley to give the Federal Trade Commission greater ability to block these agreements.

A recent study showed that one out of four Americans whose prescription drug costs went up said they were unable to pay. One out of five were forced to skip doses. Seven percent even missed a mortgage payment due to rising prescription drug costs. That’s just not right — I’ll keep fighting to make sure no family has to choose between covering their daily expenses and a healthy, happy life.

The opinions expressed in “Congressional Corner” reflect the views of the writer and are not necessarily those of TSCL.