During a press conference today, Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), joined Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to introduce new legislation aimed at lowering the high cost of prescription drugs for the 41 million Medicare enrollees. Medicare is the largest purchaser of prescription medications, however it is expressly prohibited from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies over the price of medications.
The Medicare Drug Price Negotiations Act would amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act by removing the non-interference clause, which expressly bans Medicare from negotiating drug prices.
The Prescription Justice coalition letter from last month, signed by a growing number of consumer, health and social justice organizations, supports S. 469/ H.R. 1245, The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act of 2017, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT and Representative Elijah Cummings, D-MD. If enacted, this bill would allow individuals, pharmacies and wholesalers to import FDA-approved medications from Canada, and then, after two years, from other countries with equally rigorous systems for regulating the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals.
Prescription Justice also supports S. 64 / H.R. 1480, The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2017, introduced by Senator John McCain, R-AZ and Representative Chellie Pingree, D-ME.
"By introducing the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, Sens. Sanders, Booker and Casey have heeded the call of the millions of Americans who struggle each year with the insurmountable costs of prescription drugs " said Jodi Dart, executive director of Prescription Justice. "This legislation will provide new safety protocols and guidance for American consumers who need access to lower cost medications from safe international pharmacies, beginning with Canada. Last year, 45 million Americans did not fill a prescription because of costs, and a recent poll commissioned by Prescription Justice shows overwhelming majorities support changes that will bring down drug prices. President Trump and members of Congress have an opportunity to make good on their promises to lower drug prices for American consumers. We hope they will have the political will and courage to pass this important legislation."
Last week, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) proposed an amendment (S.A. 178) to the Senate Budget Reconciliation bill that would allow individuals, pharmacies and wholesalers to import prescription medications from Canada and other countries with a valid prescription from a U.S. provider.
The amendment took place during a 7-hour vote-a-rama in which more than 150 amendments were considered and voted on for a brief ten minutes. The amendment failed 52-46, with 13 Democrats voting against it. While the measure failed to pass, it surprisingly garnered support from 12 Republicans including Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. It’s worth noting that Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) voted against the Dorgan-Snowe importation amendment in 2009, voted yes this time around.