Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is taking aim at an issue where the Trump administration’s efforts have largely been a failure: prescription drug costs.
Sanders, along with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) introduced legislation Thursday that would link prices Americans pay for medication to what citizens in other countries pay, like Canadians. One reason Canadians pay less in prescription costs is they already have a policy like the one Democrats have introduced.
Americans pay around three times more than what British citizens pay for prescription drugs. In fact, most European countries intervene in the drug market in order to keep costs low. Canada piggybacks off these price controls by ordering price reductions when drug costs exceed median costs across Europe.
Sanders and Cummings, in turn, piggyback off Canadian price controls among others. Their proposal takes the median of Canadian, Japanese, British, French, and German drug prices as the basis for American pricing.
The proposal could save Americans a lot of money, if passed. A 2015 report from Bloomberg compared the American prices of several prescription drugs to prices paid in other countries. Cholesterol-lowering pill Crestor, for example, cost Americans roughly $86.40/month, but only $32.10/month for Canadians. A one-month supply of chronic myeloid leukemia medication Gleevec cost Americans more than $10,000 in 2015, but Canadians paid roughly 20 percent of that price.
While it seems unlikely to pass a divided Congress, it does bear similarities to the Trump administration’s promises to establish an “international pricing index” to align Medicare drug costs with other countries. Although the Democrats’ proposal goes further than Trump’s.
“I say to the president: No more talk, no more tweet. No more commotion, emotion and motion and no results,” Rep. Cummings stated. “Americans want government to help them. And this is something you can do to help all Americans.”
President Trump promised bold actions had already been taken to curb the rise in drug prices last summer. Despite this, however, price hikes outnumbered price cuts in the following months almost 100-1. And little seems to be done to prevent further hikes in 2019.
Drug companies have argued that the proposed changes would interfere with Americans’ access to prescription medication, and Slate has argued that a large reason why Canada and Europe can pay as little as they do for prescriptions is that Americans are charged more to make up for the losses elsewhere.
However, as Sanders points out, pharma profits have soared in recent years.
“While Americans cannot afford the prescription drugs they desperately need, the pharmaceutical industry year after year makes huge profits and pays an outrageous level of compensation to their CEOs,” said Sanders.
He added in a statement: “If the pharmaceutical industry will not end its greed … then we will end it for them.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.