These companies benefit from huge taxpayer investment, and then turn around and charge those same taxpayers exorbitant prices under government-protected monopolies—all while reaping huge profits and paying out massive CEO bonuses.
It’s why I joined my colleague Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) in the House to introduce legislation that would give Medicare the power to negotiate directly with these corporations and demand bigger discounts to lower costs.
Our plan uses compulsory licensing to force market competition. If drug companies refuse to negotiate in good faith, the HHS secretary could force competition into the market by issuing a license for the drug to another company, which could produce the drug as a generic.
Because our plan uses the threat of market competition to bring prices down, there wouldn’t be a need to limit drug options for people on Medicare, as some contend could happen.
Now I can already hear Big Pharma’s complaints—they’ll claim it will hurt research for new drugs. But American taxpayers already help subsidize pharmaceutical research through National Institutes of Health funding, and most of these companies spend more on advertising than they do on R&D. If they’re forced to charge reasonable prices, they could reduce their marketing budgets, or make CEO compensation more reasonable and spend less than several billion dollars on stock buybacks.
There’s no reason drug companies can’t negotiate a fair price for seniors, the same way they negotiate with the VA and with private insurers.
I offered a version of our bill as an amendment to a bipartisan bill on drug pricing in the Senate Finance Committee this summer, and while that version didn’t make it into the final bill, I’m going to keep fighting for a plan that holds drug companies accountable. There are a lot of ideas out there to allow some form of Medicare negotiation, and I’m open to all ideas that get us to the most important goal: lower drug prices for patients.
Our efforts aren’t limited to just Medicare. I’m also working on other ways to lower the cost of prescription drugs and hold Big Pharma and other entities across the drug supply chain accountable—from prohibiting pharmaceutical corporations from increasing the price of their drugs year after year, to ending taxpayer subsidies for direct-to-consumer advertising, to requiring greater transparency and accountability for pharmacy benefit managers.
We all know the benefits of research into new drugs and treatments. But none of these advancements have value if patients are unable to afford them or go bankrupt paying for them. The purpose of medicine is to help people—not to line the pockets of Big Pharma executives.
If drug companies want taxpayers to keep protecting their monopolies, they need to charge fair prices. If they don’t, we’re going to hold them accountable.
More commentaries from members of the 116th Congress on the state of healthcare