1/11/2019 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to protect consumers and get seniors a better deal on prescription drug costs, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have joined with Senate colleagues in introducing legislation to lower prescription drug prices.  Reed and Whitehouse unveiled a trio of bills this week that would make expensive prescription medications more affordable for Rhode Island families.

The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act 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 Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would allow Rhode Islanders to safely import FDA-approved prescription drugs from Canada.

The End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act 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.

“Prescription medications cost too much, and for too long consumers have essentially been getting ripped off while special interests prevent Congress from taking action.  These bills will help protect Rhode Island seniors and families by using bulk purchasing power and other commonsense measures to lower prescription drug prices,” said Senator Reed.  “Americans shouldn’t be systematically forced to overpay for prescription drugs.  We hope to get bipartisan support for prescription drug pricing reform.”

“One of the top concerns I hear from Rhode Island seniors is the challenge they face affording prescription medications,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “These are smart, straightforward solutions Congress can enact to bring them relief.”

The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act, led by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, eliminating the “non-interference” clause that expressly bans Medicare from negotiating for better prices.  By harnessing the bargaining power of nearly 43 million seniors, Medicare could negotiate bigger discounts than private insurers.

The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would allow for the importation of lower-cost medications from countries outside the U.S.  The bill, led by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would require HHS to allow wholesalers, licensed U.S. pharmacies, and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs manufactured at FDA-inspected facilities from licensed Canadian sellers.  Two years after the enactment date, the legislation would also authorize HHS to allow importation from countries within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which meet the statutory or regulatory standards that are comparable to U.S. standards.

The End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act, led by Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), would prohibit pharmaceutical drug manufacturers from claiming tax deductions for consumer advertising expenses.  Advertising expenses by pharmaceutical drug manufacturers have more than quadrupled over the past two decades, rising from $1.3 billion in 1997 to $6 billion in 2016.  In that same time period, advertising from drug companies has increased from 79,000 ads to 4.6 million ads, including 663,000 TV commercials.  Economists have estimated that nearly one third of the growth in drug companies’ spending can be attributed to the increase in advertising for prescription drugs.  Under current law, drug manufacturers are allowed to deduct the cost of advertising expenses from federal taxes.  This aggressive advertising also increases demand and allows drug companies to increase prices.  The End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act would eliminate this tax deduction for drug advertising costs, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize drug advertisements.

The senators noted that President Trump has endorsed themes and ideas similar to these bills at one time or another and urged the President to get off the sidelines of the debate, stand up to the pharmaceutical industry, and help take action to reduce prescription drug costs for Americans.