WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senate Democrats announced that legislative provisions that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for certain drugs and stem price gouging will be included in the Build Back Better package. Although the terms of the agreement have not yet been released, it is assumed that the final terms closely track those reported earlier today. Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, issued the following statement, based on terms reported earlier in the day:
“This agreement falls short of what Americans want and deserve to stop Big Pharma price gouging, but it is a positive step forward nonetheless. The agreed-upon proposal will meaningfully improve access to affordable medications for millions of Americans.
“The fact that Medicare is prevented by law from negotiating the prices of the medicines it pays for through Part D is the result of one of the most egregious corporate influence-peddling schemes in modern American history. Like any other actor in the marketplace, Medicare should have been empowered to negotiate drug prices from the outset. And it should be fully empowered to do so now.
“The new agreement fails to do this. However, it does give Medicare new authority to negotiate prices for the most utilized drugs after they have been on the market for a period of years. This will generate very significant savings for the federal government. Those savings must now be used to pay for Medicare improvements, including coverage of dental, vision and hearing care.
“Thanks to the agreement, seniors will see their out-of-pocket costs go down due to a new cap on how much seniors must pay on their own. And the agreement promises very meaningful relief for insulin users.
“As important as these measures are, a much stronger agreement should have been reached. There is only one reason that Americans are not getting the agreement they should: the political power of Big Pharma and its influence with a handful of Democrats who were willing to prioritize drug company profits over the well-being of the American people.
“At the same time, any relief from Big Pharma price gouging is welcome news.
“Politically, it is important that Big Pharma was not able to steamroll Congress in the way it is used to. For that, Americans owe a debt of gratitude to U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who insisted that some relief from excessive drug prices must be part of the deal. But thanks are due not only to Sen. Sanders. Many, many Democrats – including true moderates in swing districts – insisted that drug pricing relief be included in the final bill. They understood that their constituents needed and demanded protections against Big Pharma price gouging and that they had a moral duty to deliver to them.
“The direct result of that political courage will be a meaningful improvement in the health and standard of living of millions of Americans.”