Bicameral legislation would help ensure Americans can get the medicines they need—provides roadmap to make sure Americans aren’t charged more than patients in other developed countries for the same drugs

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Vermont’s U.S. Senator Peter Welch teamed up with U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI-06) today to introduce the End Price Gouging for Medications Act. The high cost of drugs forces many Americans to face an impossible choice between managing their health or putting food on the table. This bicameral bill would ensure that Americans would not be paying more for prescription drugs than people in other similarly-developed countries do, a top concern among Americans.

“Americans spend more on research and development on drugs than any other country! We should get the best price, not the worst,” said Sen. Merkley. “Americans are getting outrageously ripped off by the drug companies. It has to end.”

“No one should ever be forced to choose between paying for the prescriptions they need or putting food on the table. It’s unacceptable, and for too many Americans it’s a reality because of Big Pharma’s price gouging,” said Sen. Welch. “The End Price Gouging for Medications Act would put an end to this bad practice and help more Vermonters access the medications they need. I’m proud to join Sen. Merkley to introduce this bill and help Vermonters get the care they need.” 

“Too many hardworking men and women are forced to choose between groceries or their prescriptions,” said Rep. Dingell. “These are choices no one should have to make, and there’s no reason we should be spending more on prescriptions than any other country. This legislation will help to finally bring down the cost of prescription drugs, hold drug companies accountable, and provide much-needed relief to American families.”

Americans, on average, spend over $1,300 on prescription drugs every year—more as a total per capita than patients in any other country—largely because American consumers are charged disproportionately higher drug costs by pharmaceutical companies. Over a quarter of Americans who take prescription medications say they or a family member have not filled a prescription, have cut pills in half or skipped doses, or have taken an over-the-counter medication instead simply because of the cost. Though over half of Americans take at least one prescription medication, eighty percent of the public say the cost of their prescription drugs is unreasonable.

Meanwhile, American taxpayers fund some of the most cutting-edge research in the world—research integral to drug companies’ abilities to make their products in the first place. American patients with Hepatitis C currently pay over $30,000 for a medication that is sold in Switzerland for $14,720. In the United States, diabetes patients pay on average $98.70 for a vial of insulin, while the list price across the border in Canada is $12. Patients with high cholesterol and triglyceride levels pay $216 for the medication Crestor, while patients in France pay just $20.

The End Price Gouging for Medications Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure Americans do not pay more for prescription drugs than the lowest price per drug in 11 other countries—Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden—that represent nations with similar economies. In each of these countries, pharmaceutical companies sell many of the same prescription drugs Americans take for a fraction of the cost charged here in America.

The legislation would require drug companies to offer prescription drugs at the established reference price to all individuals in the U.S. market, and impose civil penalties for each year in which the violation occurs and for each drug. Penalties will equal five times the difference between the retail list price and the reference price, and will be transferred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support drug research and development.

The legislation is endorsed by Public Citizen, Lower Drug Prices Now, the Center for Health and Democracy, Just Care USA, Center for Medicare Advocacy, and Social Security Works.

“Drug corporations routinely charge patients in the United States twice or more of what they charge patients in other large, wealthy countries – even in cases where U.S. taxpayers supported the drug’s development. The End Price Gouging for Medications Act would put help put an end to drug corporation monopolists charging the American people whatever prices they like. Public Citizen is proud to endorse and applauds Sens. Merkley and Welch and Rep. Dingell for introducing this legislation,” said Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program.

“The Inflation Reduction Act, and the landmark prescription drug provision, was a big step forward in breaking up Big Pharma’s monopoly control over drug prices.  Now, Congress needs to build off that and hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable for sky high prescription drug prices. Drug corporation price-gouging is not new: every year Big Pharma jacks up prices to boost the profits of their CEOs, executives and shareholders, while millions of Americans are forced to ration their medication. This industry has proven time and again that it will not reform itself — it’s up to Congress to ensure people can afford the medicines they need. The End Price Gouging for Medications Act is a step toward holding drug corporations that are more interested in profits than patient health accountable for their actions,” said Margarida Jorge, Executive Director, Lower Drug Prices Now.

“Competition extends around the globe, except when it comes to drug prices. There’s no good reason Americans should be forced to pay two or three or even four times as much for our drugs as people in France, Germany and Canada. Senators Merkley, Senator Welch, and Representative Dingell’s “End Price Gouging for Medications Act” legislation recognizes that monopoly pricing by drug corporations is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year or driving them into medical debt and that fair drug pricing is essential to our health and well-being,” said Diane Archer, President, Just Care USA.

Bill text can be found here.

Bill summary can be found here.