CANANDAIGUA — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand promoted the “Stop Price Gouging Act” for prescription medication during a Monday visit to an independent living community.
“No matter where I am in our state, one thing I keep hearing over and over again is that New York’s seniors are extremely worried about the high cost of prescription drugs,” Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said at Ferris Hills at West Lake. “We must solve this crisis, and one of the most effective ways we can do that is by finally holding drug companies accountable with tough penalties when they spike the price of prescription drugs that New Yorkers need to treat their illnesses.”
The legislation would drive down prescription drug prices, ensure access to affordable medication and penalize pharmaceutical companies that raise prices without justification.
Gillibrand said that under current law those companies can raise the price of their meds at any time with no reason. There is no mechanism to prevent a manufacturer from spiking the price of its drugs year after year, and pharmaceutical corporations are not required to report the increases to the public.
In January 2017, median prices for prescription meds increased by an average of nearly nine percent — about four times higher than the rate of inflation. Gillibrand said that forced many seniors living on a fixed income to consider going without their meds.
“We are well aware of the challenges Thompson’s patients often face in being able to afford the medications they’re prescribed when manufacturers implement steep hikes,” said Christopher Dailey, pharmacy director for UR Medicine/Thompson Health, which includes Ferris Hills at West Lake. “I understand that we’re a capitalistic society, but there’s a big difference between that and what’s going on here. At this point, we’re just being taken advantage of.”
Gillibrand’s legislation would penalize drug companies that engage in price gouging without cause, leading to price spikes for patients who rely on medication to treat diseases ranging from cancer to opioid addiction. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).
The Stop Price Gouging Act would:
• Require pharmaceutical companies to report any increases in the price of their products, as well as justification for any increases that exceed medical inflation, to the Health and Human Services Inspector General — as well as to the public.
• Impose a tax penalty on corporations that engage in excessive, unjustified price increases that is proportional to the size of the price spike.
• Instruct the Government Accountability Office to do a study examining how drug manufacturers establish initial launch prices and suggest best practices for monitoring new drug pricing.
• Reinvest penalties collected from companies in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health.
Gillibrand said she is also pushing for Congress to pass four other bills she has co-sponsored that would help increase access and affordability of medications for senior citizens.
Gillibrand is an original co-sponsor of the Capping Prescription Cost Act, which would ensure that individuals and families with high prescription drug costs are protected and can access necessary medications. This legislation would cap monthly co-pays in private insurance plans for prescription drugs at $250 per person and $500 per family.
The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act would tackle the issue of rising drug costs in the U.S. in four key areas: transparency, access and affordability, innovation, and choice and competition.
The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2017 would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices for Medicare.
The Affordable Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue regulations for allowing wholesalers, licensed U.S. pharmacies, and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs manufactured at FDA-inspected facilities from licensed Canadian sellers and licensed sellers in other countries.