On June 8, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood with New York State Senator Shelley Mayer, local community leaders, and senior care advocates at the Village of Port Chester Senior Community Center to announce her legislation the Stop Price Gouging Act, which would drive down prescription drug prices, ensure access to affordable medications for New York seniors, and penalize drug companies that raise prices of medication without justification. Under current law, pharmaceutical companies can raise the price of their medication at any time with no justification. 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 in the price of their drugs to the public. In January 2017, median prices for prescription medications increased by an average of nearly nine percent, about four times higher than the overall inflation rate, forcing many seniors living on a fixed income to consider going without their medication.
“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,” said Senator Gillibrand. “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. I am proud to be the author of the Stop Price Gouging Act, and I will fight as hard as I can in the Senate to pass this important bill.”
“Rising prescription drug prices are a key concern of millions of American seniors and working families. Prices of many medications that have been on the market for decades are surging. Medication for Americans with chronic conditions more than doubled in price over the past decade to nearly $13,000 – taking up four-fifths of the average Social Security retirement benefit. This cannot stand. I commend Senator Gillibrand for her hard work to address this key issue and will continue to work in the House to ensure every American can afford the medication they need,” said U.S. Representative Eliot Engel.
“Faced with soaring prescription drug costs and cynical price gouging by some pharmaceutical companies, far too many Americans, particularly seniors, find themselves under significant financial pressure, forced to skip or ration their medications for chronic and life-threatening conditions in order to make ends meet. Increasing transparency of prescription drug prices and holding bad actors accountable will help alleviate these burdens and ensure that the health and well-being of Americans is treated as a priority. I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this critical issue,” said U.S. Representative Nita Lowey.
This legislation would penalize pharmaceutical 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 overdose reversal. The bill is co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Richard Durbin (D-IL).
Gillibrand’s legislation, the Stop Price Gouging Act, would do the following: Require pharmaceutical corporations 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 (HHS) Inspector General, as well as to the public; Impose a tax penalty on corporations that engage in excessive, unjustified price increases that are proportional to the size of the price spike; Instruct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study examining how drug manufacturers establish initial launch prices and suggest best practices for monitoring new drug pricing; and Reinvest penalties collected from companies in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Gillibrand is also pushing for Congress to act now to pass three other bills she has cosponsored that would help increase access and affordability of medications for seniors. 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 in Medicare. The Affordable Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would create a two-year-long pilot program to import prescription drugs from Canada and other approved countries. This legislation 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.