New York, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today joined patients, health care advocates, and medical professionals to call on Congress to pass legislation that would protect New Yorkers from prescription drug price gouging, help drive down prescription drug prices, and help ensure that all patients have access to affordable medications. Gillibrand’s push comes as the Senate Finance Committee is set to hear testimony from pharmaceutical executives next week as part of a hearing on rising prescription drug prices.
There is currently no law to prevent drug manufacturers from spiking the price of their drugs. In 2018, Americans spent an all-time high of $360 billion on prescription drugs. According to the AARP, brand name drug prices increased four times faster than general inflation in 2017. Gillibrand’s legislation, the Stop Price Gouging Act, would penalize drug companies that raise prices of medication without justification. Any revenues collected through this bill would be reinvested in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“Too many New Yorkers are suffering because too many drug companies care more about their own profits than whether sick patients have access to medicine. That is one of the root causes of our country’s skyrocketing prescription drug costs, and Congress needs to do more to solve this problem now,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This urgently needed legislation would finally hold companies accountable and penalize them when they gouge the price of a prescription drug without cause. I am proud to introduce this bill, and I urge my colleagues to join me in fighting to pass it.”
“As a practicing primary care doctor I have cared for many patients who did not get their medicines because they could not pay for them,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. “As a health system leader, high drug prices make it difficult for me to provide as much nursing and medical care as my patients need because of the large pharmacy bill. I applaud Senator Gillibrand for taking steps to address this important issue.”
“We help thousands of New Yorkers struggle with prescription drug costs annually,” said Elisabeth Ryden Benjamin, Vice President of Health Initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York. “Senator Gillibrand’s leadership on drugs pricing is an important step towards curbing prescription costs and making health care more affordable for all of us.”
“The unpredictability of what senior citizens in New York will pay for much needed medicines contributes to a myriad of marginal decisions that they will make on a daily basis such as splitting their doses, not paying other bills in order to afford their medications, or not purchasing their medicines at all,” said Maria Alvarez, Executive Director of the NY StateWide Senior Action Council. “Most New York senior citizens are living on fixed incomes that are not keeping pace with inflation. The skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs is contributing to the 58% of economic insufficiency that older New Yorker households are experiencing. We applaud Senator Gillibrand’s effort to contain the increase in prescription drug prices for patients.”
Specifically, the Stop Price Gouging Act would do the following:
- Require drug companies to report increases in drug prices, and justify the increase
- Penalize drug companies that engage in unjustified price increases with financial penalties proportionate to the price spike
Gillibrand introduced the Stop Price Gouging Act with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The Senators also introduced this bill last Congress. In December 2016, Brown and Gillibrand wrote to President Trump outlining specific steps his Administration could take to help reduce drug prices, including: allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate better prices for Medicare recipients, requiring drug companies to disclose costs associated with creating drugs so prices are more transparent, putting an end to abusive price gouging, and ensuring competition and innovation to lead to greater competition and more affordable, effective drugs.