For too many Ohioans, prescription drug prices are rising dramatically – as much as 1,000 percent for some drugs.
And the reason for these increases is too often due to the egregious practices of some pharmaceutical companies. These companies, like Valeant, Turing, and Rodelis, buy up the rights to drugs, and then hike prices by massive amounts.
When Valeant acquired Salix Pharmaceuticals earlier this year, it raised the price of its diabetes drug, Glumetza, by 800 percent. Glumetza is – and has been for years – the first drug a physician prescribes to an individual diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes.
It isn’t “new and improved” in any sense of the word — Valeant is selling the same drug, but it now costs 800 percent more. This isn’t right, and it must stop.
Unlike traditional drug companies, these corporations engage in almost no research and development. They are not developing new cures or improving treatments. Instead of making something new and innovative, they buy the rights to existing drugs from other companies, lay off workers, raise prices, and then expect patients, hospitals, and taxpayers to pick up the tab.
Seniors on Medicare face skyrocketing bills for lifesaving drugs that they can’t afford. And some insurance companies have stopped covering their drugs altogether.
Federal prosecutors are now investigating Valeant over its shady practices – but we cannot rely on the legal system alone to go after every bad actor. We need to do more to prevent these price spikes from occurring in the future.
One way we can look out for Ohio seniors and bring down drug prices is by giving Medicare the authority to negotiate lower drug prices.
Current law expressly bans Medicare from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for the best possible prices – even though the government can often negotiate bigger discounts than private insurance companies.
This summer, I helped introduce the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act, which would allow seniors to enroll in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan administered directly by Medicare, instead of a private insurance company.
This legislation would also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with drug companies to get the best prices for our seniors.
Seniors should be able to get drug coverage directly through Medicare – not be forced to buy from a middle man.
And giving Medicare this authority to negotiate may help bring drug prices down for more than just seniors. We know that Medicare prices – the reimbursements for providers and costs for drugs – help set rates in the private market.
The purpose of life-saving drugs is just that—to save lives, not to line the pockets of Big Pharma executives and investors.
Sherrod Brown (D-OH) represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.