6/12/2019 — 

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced comprehensive legislation to hold large pharmaceutical companies accountable for high prices and bring down costs for Americans.  The Senators say that some pharmaceutical companies are misleading the public about pricing and exploiting consumers, thereby forcing seniors and families into untenable choices between their health and other basic needs.

According to Families USA, nearly three in ten American adults – nearly 80 million people – have not taken required medicine due to its costs.

The Affordable Medications Act would help promote transparency by requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose just how much money is going toward research and development, as well as marketing and pay for executives.  The bill would also end the restriction that prevents the federal Medicare program from using its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for its beneficiaries, and curb drug company monopoly practices that keep prices high and prevent less expensive generics from coming to the market. 

“No one thinks drug companies are playing fair.  Prices have dramatically shot up on old medications, stunning families and seniors. That has to end.  Nobody should have to forgo needed medication because drug companies are putting profits before people.  This bill puts patients first and will help lower prescription drug prices by improving competition, stopping price gouging, and holding drug companies accountable,” said Senator Reed. “A more competitive marketplace with stronger oversight would go a long way toward helping Americans afford the lifesaving medications they need.”

“The soaring cost of prescription drugs is an enormous burden on the middle class, especially for seniors living on fixed incomes,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Our Affordable Medications Act combines hugely popular commonsense reforms to bring down drug prices, spur innovation, and check the runaway power of the pharmaceutical industry.”

“We need to improve competition, make the big drug companies tell us exactly how they’re spending all the money that they’re making and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices with these drug companies. Right now, these companies are just naming their price and Americans have to pay it. When you hear about people rationing their life-saving medication because they can’t afford the dosage recommended by their physicians, you know we have a real problem, and I want to fix it,” said Senator Smith.

Current Senate cosponsors include: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Reed and Whitehouse helped unveil the legislation in Washington, DC this week as a new report shows that Rhode Island’s health care system ranks 7th nationwide, but that Rhode Islanders still face many challenges when it comes to cost of care.  The non-profit Commonwealth Fund’s 2019 rankings of state healthcare performance examined public data on 47 health care "indicators" – such as access and affordability; prevention and treatment; avoidable hospital use and costs – and found that Rhode Island rose nine spots this year to break into the top ten.  However, the scorecard also showed Rhode Island is one of a dozen states nationwide where the share of adults that skipped medical treatment, because of cost, climbed 2 two percentage points or more between 2016 and 2017.

Reed and Whitehouse have also teamed up on a trio of bills this year that would make expensive prescription medications more affordable for Rhode Island families.

The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act (S. 62) would allow Medicare to directly negotiate the best possible price of prescription drugs to cut costs for nearly 43 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D.  Current law prohibits Medicare from doing so.

The End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act (S. 73) would prohibit pharmaceutical drug manufacturers from claiming tax deductions for consumer advertising expenses, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize billions of dollars in drug advertisements

The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act (S. 469) would allow Rhode Islanders to safely import FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada.