42 Groups, 24 State and Local Lawmakers to Becerra: White House Must Squash Big Pharma’s Monopoly Power In Quest to Lower Drug Prices

Letters Come Ahead of HHS’ Drug Pricing Competition Plan

Drugs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The White House must take Big Pharma head-on and be aggressive in curbing drug makers’ monopoly power in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ drug pricing competition plan expected later this month, 42 civil society and health care organizations and 24 state and local officials said today in letters to Secretary Xavier Becerra.

“The root cause of high drug prices is the monopoly power of prescription drug corporations,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicine program. “President Biden can end the era of abusive drug pricing and treatment rationing if he challenges patents and expands generic competition. Without that leverage, price reform is unlikely to make the major, lasting difference that Americans need.” 

The letters, led by Public Citizen, People’s Action, Center for Popular Democracy, Social Security Works and PrEP4All, noted that Americans pay more than two-and-a-half times as much for prescription drugs than people in other countries, and one-in-four Americans, disproportionately people of color, report they are unable to afford their medications. 

In his July 9 executive order, Biden gave HHS 45 days to submit a plan that would combat excessive pricing of prescription drugs. The letters contended that the White House already has the power under existing law, including through the Bayh-Dole Act, to curb monopoly abuse and authorize generic competitors to lower drug prices. Generic competition, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, can lead to price reductions of 95%.

“Pharmaceutical companies’ abuse of the patent system has left millions of Americans unable to afford the medicines they need,” said Christian Urrutia, co-founder of the advocacy group PrEP4All. “President Biden has the power, right now, to stand up to these monopolies, saving countless lives in the process.”

The letters come ahead of a telepresser Thursday evening where elected officials, including Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), patients and civil society organizations will discuss how to address high drug pricing in the U.S.

“The COVID crisis has illuminated the many burdens our healthcare system places on individuals, on families, on communities. People need real relief, need structural change,” said Vinay Krishnan, national field organizer for the Center for Popular Democracy Action. “President Biden has the power to authorize generic competition and lower prescription drug prices right now, which would transform how healthcare is delivered in this country. We’re asking him to take action and help create a country in which no one ever has to forgo needed treatment because of cost.”

President Biden has the power to allow generic competition to drive down prices and improve access to needed drugs, and he has a moral obligation to use it,” said Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works. “He can save and improve millions of lives with the stroke of a pen. We need generic competition now.”

“As we face a new surge in this pandemic and our health systems strain once more, the Biden administration should recognize there is no better time than now to break up big Pharma monopolies,” said Aija Nemer-Aanerud, lead organizer at People’s Action Health Care for All. “Pharma abuses laws to price gouge and keep our communities from getting the medicine they need. We have to lower drug prices once and for all, and Secretary Becerra can help us do it by taking on big Pharma monopolies.”

The groups’ letter is available here and the lawmakers’ letter is here.