U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday backed a California ballot initiative to save state taxpayers from being ripped off by pharmaceutical companies which charge Americans the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
“While Congress has failed to stand up to the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, the people of California can by supporting this ballot initiative,” the Vermont senator said.
The California Drug Price Relief Act is supported by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and National Nurses United, both headquartered in Oakland, California. “Americans living with HIV/AIDS and cancer should not live in fear that they will go bankrupt because of the outrageously high cost of their prescription drugs,” Sanders said.
The proposition would prohibit the state from paying more for a prescription drug than the lowest price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The nationwide VA health care system negotiates lower prices for pharmaceuticals.
As a former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Sanders authored landmark legislation reforming the health care system for veterans. “We know that the VA pays considerably less than retail prices for prescription drugs. The people of California and all Americans should get the same price,” Sanders said.
Prices for prescription medicine in the United States soared last year more than 10 percent – the third consecutive year of double digit price increases. One out of five adults between the ages of 18 and 64 – more than 35 million Americans – cannot afford the medications that their doctors prescribe. “In the richest country in the history of the world,” Sanders said, “that is unacceptable.”
The pharmaceutical industry is bankrolling a campaign to defeat the California initiative. “It is no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry already has dedicated $50 million to defeat this ballot initiative,” Sanders said. “Their greed has no end.”
In Congress, Sanders and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland have introduced comprehensive legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Their bills would authorize the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies and reduce barriers to the importation of lower-cost drugs from Canada and other countries.
Sanders and Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, also have spotlighted steep price increases for generic drugs. The increases cost taxpayers an additional $1.4 billion over the last decade, according to a study Sanders and Cummings requested from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general. Prices of top-selling generic drugs rose faster than inflation 22 percent of the time over the 10-year period examined by the study.
Sanders was in California this week ahead of the state’s June 7 presidential primary election.
To read the senator’s statement, click here.
To read the senator’s plan to lower prescription drug prices, click here.