A Bipartisan Bill? Drug Prices Unite U.S. Politicians

A Bipartisan Bill? Drug Prices Unite U.S. Politicians

In a political environment more charged than any other time in recent memory, issues that everyone can agree on are few and far between. Even against that divisive backdrop, however, there seems to be one problem that all parties want to tackle as soon as possible: inflated drug prices in the U.S. 

As February came to a close, independent Senator – and former Democratic presidential candidate – Bernie Sanders proposed a bill that would permit cheaper imported drugs to flow more freely into the U.S. market from Canada. It’s a concept that crosses party lines in terms of the desired outcome, to catalyze negotiation in a restricted marketplace and give greater choice to millions of American patients.

For all their differences – and they are too numerous to list – Sanders and President Trump agree on the core issue: U.S. drug prices are too high and competition in the sector must be increased.

President Trump may not be in favor of foreign imports as a rule, but his concern over the price paid by American patients for prescription medication is well-documented. At a meeting held just ten days into his presidency, Trump demanded executives drive more negotiation in the pharmaceutical sector.

While acknowledging that regulation may have hampered their efforts to cut costs in the U.S. market, his comments continued a long line of criticism that ran throughout his election campaign.

Unsurprisingly, pharmaceutical companies have a problem with any legislation that allows generic drugs or cheaper imports to flow into the restricted U.S. market. More surprising is their chosen defense, which argues that this competition would increase the risk of harmful medications.

This quote from a prominent pharma trade group summarizes the view of Sanders’ bill:

“An importation scheme would open new avenues for unscrupulous organizations and individuals to take advantage of American patients.”

It’s a complaint that rings hollow to tens of thousands of U.S. patients who have been exposed to dangerous drugs and devices released by the biggest brands in the pharmaceutical sector. These victims would certainly label many of these companies as “unscrupulous.”

Indeed, many of them would consider the term to be a massive understatement.

It is an indisputable fact that the cost of important drugs is artificially high in the United States. Pharmaceutical companies will argue until their final breath that this is down to high research and development costs. and ensuring a return on investment through the patented drugs they create.

There is validity to this argument, but consumers find it hard to swallow when the same players show such little regard for safety and put profits before patients.

Until these companies improve transparency and accept an element of competition into the U.S. market, it should come as no surprise that even the most divided political landscape can come together to bring drug prices down for the patients who need them most. 

 

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