June 08, 2018

As Seniors Across New York Continue To Face Soaring Prescription Drug Prices, Gillibrand Visits Port Chester To Announce Legislation To Drive Down Costs And Increase Access To Safe, Affordable Medications

New Trump Administration Plan Falsely Claims to Lower Out-of-Pocket Costs for Seniors, But Costs Would Simply Be Redistributed and Potentially Go Up for Seniors Under the Inadequate Trump Plan; Last Year, Nearly 28 Million Americans Experienced a Spike in Prescription Medication Prices and Many Seniors Were Forced to Go Without Their Prescription Drugs in the Face of Rising Costs

Port Chester, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today 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.

“I am pleased to stand with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand supporting the Stop Price Gouging Act to protect our families, seniors, and all New Yorkers from the exploitative pricing policies of pharmaceutical companies. Too many times, we’ve seen the prices of life saving medications New Yorkers rely on surge for no apparent reason. The Stop Price Gouging Act brings accountability and requires that pharmaceutical companies justify their pricing increases to the people who use their medications. I am proud to support the Stop Price Gouging Act and Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to protect New Yorker, and especially our seniors,” said New York State Senator Shelley Mayer (D-37th Senate District).

“Tackling prescription drug prices is important to all consumers who are spending more of their salary to cover rising healthcare costs, and especially for seniors who shouldn’t have to choose between paying for their prescriptions and other necessities. I am pleased to support Senator Gillibrand's efforts to protect consumers from unwarranted increases in drug prices,” said New York State Assembly Member Steven Otis (D-91st Assembly District).

“Port Chester seniors, like others on a fixed income across the state, are struggling to keep up with increasing costs in everything from housing to healthcare.  No one should have to forego life-saving medications, or have to choose between their medications and having a warm bed to sleep in because they can't afford both.  This legislation, which provides penalties for price gouging, will make it harder for pharmaceutical companies to take unfair advantage of the people who can least afford it,” said Westchester County Legislator Nancy Barr (D-District 6).

“Older persons should not be forced to choose between medicine and food. Some are eating cat food if they take their medicine. This is un-American and certainly defies the quality of life all seniors deserve,” said Mae Carpenter, Commissioner, Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services.

“Prescription drug affordability remains out of grasp for many people with Medicare. Nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries live on annual incomes of $26,200 or less, and one quarter live on $15,250 or less. Most people with Medicare simply cannot afford to pay more for health care. The Stop Drug Price Gouging Act would bring some much-needed relief to older adults in New York and across the country who are struggling to cover their drug costs; we applaud Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this issue,” said Joe Baker, President, Medicare Right Center.

“As an aging in place organization, SPRYE takes great pride in helping its senior members remain in their homes and the communities they love.  We, together with our numerous volunteers, provide a myriad of services and social activities for our members in Harrison, Port Chester, Rye and Rye Brook. We are aware of the financial constraints of our members, many of whom live on fixed incomes. The rising cost of healthcare and medication has become prohibitive.  We appreciate that Senator Gillibrand is taking a stand for our seniors as their watchdog and advocate for fair and affordable pricing of prescription drugs.  This effort can ultimately help to sustain a healthy and vibrant senior population,” said Barbara Brunner, President, Staying Put in Rye & Environs (SPRYE).

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.