Merkley, Welch, Rooney Introduce Bipartisan Bill to End Price Gouging on Prescription Drugs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley was joined by Congressmen Peter Welch (D-VT-AL) and Francis Rooney (R-FL-19) today in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would ensure Americans do not pay more for prescription drugs than people do in other developed countries—helping to address a top concern among Americans, who time and time again are facing the impossible choice between affording their prescriptions and paying their rent or putting food on the table.

“The only people in this country who think drug prices aren’t way too high are getting rich from drug company profits,” Merkley said. “Americans have been ripped off by pharmaceutical companies for too long. It’s time to stand up to the drug companies, and stand up for the Americans who right now are choosing between life-saving medicines and basic necessities. Our plan is simple: Drug companies sell to Americans at the same price they sell to other developed countries, or they pay up.”

“Americans are getting crushed by skyrocketing drug prices,” Welch said. “Pharmaceutical companies make vital lifesaving drugs, but their manipulation of the market to the benefit of shareholders is shameful and must be checked. Our bill will do just that.  There is simply no reason why Americans should pay dramatically higher prices for drugs than citizens in other developed countries.”

“The cost of prescription drugs is spiraling out of control and Americans are paying more than citizens of other developed countries,” Rooney said. “This is a gross injustice to the American people and along with my colleagues I am proud to introduce the End Price Gouging for Medications Act to put a stop to this abuse. Capping American prices at those paid by other developed nations is a simple solution to avoid Americans’ overpaying for the drugs they need.”

Americans spend, on average, $1,200 on prescription drugs every year—more than patients in any other country—largely because American consumers are charged disproportionately higher drug costs by pharmaceutical companies. Nearly a quarter of Americans who take prescription medications say they or a family member has not filled a prescription, has cut pills in half, or has skipped doses simply because of the cost. Of the 6 in 10 Americans who report taking at least one prescription medicine, 80 percent say the cost of their prescription drugs is unreasonable.

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 median price per drug in 11 other countries—Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden—that represent developed countries 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) for conducting drug research and development.

“American patients pay far more than people in other countries for prescription drugs, and it’s just plain wrong,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “This bipartisan bill would lower prices in the U.S., bringing them in line with other wealthy nations of the world. It would boost innovation by ensuring excess drug company revenues go to fund research at the National Institutes of Health to develop lifesaving new drugs instead of stock buybacks and outrageous executive compensation.”

“Americans are dying, and many others are living in fear and uncertainty, for one reason only: Pharma greed,” said Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works. “The End Price Gouging for Medications Act would confront that greed head on by requiring pharmaceutical corporations to bring prices down to what is paid in countries similar to our own. Thank you to Sen. Merkley, Rep. Welch, and Rep. Rooney for their bold bipartisan legislation, which will help Americans afford their medications by lowering drug prices across the board.”

“Why should people living in the United States pay so much more for the medicine that we need to care for our families?” said Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program. “Prescription drug corporations rip off consumers and our government has long helped them do it, giving corporations special monopoly powers to block competition and allowing these monopolists to charge any price they like. No more. Senator Merkley’s legislation makes corporations offer the American people a fair deal. Together we will end the era of medicine price gouging and help families get the medicine they need.”

“The core problem in prescription drug costs is the lack of a strong federal mechanism to control prices,” said Eliot Fishman, Senior Director of Policy, Families USA. “Senator Merkley’s bill is an important and courageous step in focusing on this problem and it reflects a reasonable goal: let’s bring our costs in line with those of other advanced countries. We are proud to support this legislation. Lives are at stake, and the time to move forward on meaningful national prescription drug pricing reform is now.”

The End Price Gouging for Medications Act is endorsed by Patients For Affordable Drugs NOW, Social Security Works, Public Citizen, and Families USA.

The full text of the bill is available here.