Merkley Touts New Legislation Aimed At Lowering Prescription Drug Costs

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley discussed new legislation he’s sponsoring to stop drug companies from charging American patients more than what people pay for pharmaceuticals in other countries.

During a roundtable in Portland on Monday, Merkley and health care professionals and advocates discussed the hardships many seniors face when trying to afford expensive prescriptions. 

“They want to keep a roof over their head, but they also want to make sure that the medications that they have to take to live don’t take that roof from over their head or food out of their refrigerator,” said Ruby Haughton-Pitts, state director for AARP Oregon.

Merkley’s proposed bill, titled the End Price Gouging for Medications Act, would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to prevent Americans from paying more than the median price of drugs sold in eleven other developed countries, including Japan, France, and the United Kingdom.

The legislation would apply to all individuals purchasing prescription drugs but, according to Merkley, incorporating the federal Medicare program would be an important first step to lowering costs overall by enabling Medicare officials to negotiate prices with drug makers.  

“I want for us to negotiate fair prices for everyone. If we can get a big down payment for that by doing it through Medicare, that’s great!” Merkley said.

The proposal is just one of a variety of ideas in Congress right now aimed at lowering drug prices from both Democrats and Republics. Merkley’s proposed legislation has yet to be discussed in committee or in the Senate.

The pharmaceutical trade group, known as PhRMA responded to Merkley’s bill with a statement warning that government price setting will reduce investment in medical research and development. 

“In every country where the government sets the prices for medicines it has resulted in less access to medicines for patients… Government imposed price setting also reduces investment in research and development and slows progress in creating the next medical breakthroughs.”