Blumenthal, Harris, Merkley & Klobuchar Introduce Bill To End Predatory Price Gouging On Lifesaving Drugs

The CURE High Drug Prices Act would give HHS authority to block pharmaceutical companies’ unjustified price increases on drugs. Legislation supported by Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, Families USA, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Consumer Reports, and Public Citizen.

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Following new reports on the pervasive nature of Big Pharma’s predatory pricing practices, including on lifesaving opioid overdose drugs, and the impact on American patients, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Curbing Unreasonable Rises and Excessively (CURE) High Drug Prices Act today to prohibit unjustified drug price increases and give the Department of Health and Human Services authority to block such increases and reimburse consumers who were harmed.

High prescription drug prices have become an increasingly unavoidable reality for Americans, with Americans spending more on prescription drugs – $1,100 per person each year – than any other nation. Predatory pricing is one of the key factors. The price of EpiPens rose by 500 percent over just 10 years. The average price of insulin doubled from 2012 to 2016, despite being over 100 years old and made by three manufacturers. This price gouging has real impacts on Americans’ health. Earlier this year, Yale researchers found that one in four patients to cut back or skip doses.

“This bill will empower the federal government to do more than just ‘name and shame’ pharmaceutical companies into doing the right thing,” said Blumenthal.  “There’s no reason insulin, EpiPens, naloxone, or other lifesaving drugs should cost astronomically higher today than when they were first brought to market. Giving HHS the authority to turn back exploitive price increases will help reduce delayed treatment and the extreme financial burden American families have had to shoulder due to Big Pharma’s greed.”

Blumenthal has consistently called for federal action against unconscionable drug price spikes, and demanded investigations into the skyrocketing costs of EpiPen Auto-Injectors, naloxone, and IV saline.  Blumenthal has previously written to the Securities and Exchange Commission in an effort to increase drug price transparency and hold pharmaceutical companies accountable to their shareholders and the public. He also supports legislation that would allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices.

This summer, Blumenthal held a series of meetings and town halls with families, seniors and medical experts at health centers and senior centers across Connecticut on a series of common sense measures to drive down the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, including the CURE High Drug Prices Act.

“With too many seniors and working families already struggling to keep up with the rising cost of health care, it is unacceptable for drug companies’ predatory pricing practices to limit access to lifesaving medicine,” said Harris. “I’m proud to join with my colleagues on this legislation that would prohibit price gouging for all drugs covered by federal health care programs and give HHS and DOJ significant enforcement ability over excessive drug price increases. We can and we must do more to ensure that every American has access to affordable, quality health care.”

 “Americans are being ripped off on the cost of prescription drugs, with Wall Street profiteers acquiring the rights to key medicines and jacking up prices by tens or even hundreds of times what was charged previously,” said Merkley. “This outrageous practice has to end. Unjustified, blatant price-gouging has no place in our medical system. It’s time to protect patients from these predatory schemes.”

 “The skyrocketing costs of prescription drugs have made many lifesaving drugs unaffordable and inaccessible for the patients who need them. This legislation will empower the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate massive price increases, pay back consumers who were forced to buy medication at an unbearable cost, and punish corporations who place profit above patient health,” said Klobuchar.

The legislation has the support of leading consumer health and protection groups, including Patients for Affordable Drugs Now, Families USA, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Consumer Reports, and Public Citizen.

“Every day we hear from patients suffering under soaring drug prices. We are grateful to Senator Blumenthal and others for introducing the CURE High Drug Prices Act, which would hold pharmaceutical corporations accountable for out-of-control price gouging,” said David Mitchell, cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “We are hopeful that Senators on both sides of the aisle will join Senators Blumenthal, Harris, Merkley, and Klobuchar in moving this important bill forward.”

 “High and climbing prescription drug prices threaten the health and well-being of millions throughout the United States, including children, seniors, people with disabilities, and low-wage workers. ‘Price gouging,’ an abusive practice in which drug companies drastically increase prices, makes this problem even worse. Drug companies need to be held accountable when they are racking up obscene profits by overcharging consumers who can’t survive without their medicine,” said Eliot Fishman, Senior Director of Health Policy for Families USA. “The CURE High Drug Prices Act would prohibit these drastic drug price increases by requiring HHS to monitor price increases and hold manufacturers responsible for any unjustified hike. This legislation is a bold and important step in stopping drug companies from continuing to impose outrageous costs on America’s families.”     

“Price gouging by pharmaceutical manufacturers forces untenable choices on consumers, putting their household finances in jeopardy, and risking their health and even their life,” said Dena Mendelsohn, Senior Policy Counsel for Consumer Reports. “This bill strikes a fair balance, by allowing legitimate cost-justified prescription drug price increases, but stopping the unjust exploitation of consumers who depend on a drug and have nowhere else to go.”

“Rising drug prices are a problem for all of us, but especially Medicare beneficiaries, who are older or disabled by definition. We applaud Senator Blumenthal and others for introducing the CURE High Drug Prices Act which would address price gouging on the part of pharmaceutical manufacturers,” said Judith Stein, Executive Director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “People cannot access needed prescription drugs if they cannot afford them. This is an important reform for families nationwide.”

“Big Pharma has made repeated price spiking central to its business model; drug companies’ steep price increases every year, or six months, for their monopoly-protected products cause prices to skyrocket over a matter of years. Consumers are left with the unacceptable choice: pay extortionate prices, or go without. That’s why Public Citizen is so pleased to support Senator Blumenthal’s vital CURE High Drug Prices bill,” said Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen. “It would crack down on the worst price-gouging companies, and force them to return their ill-gotten gains to consumers.” 

The Cure High Drug Prices Act

 The CURE High Drug Prices Act would require pharmaceutical companies to submit justification to HHS for any price increases of:

  • 10 percent or more over the preceding year;
  • 20 percent or more over the preceding three years; and,
  • 30 percent or more over the preceding five years.

 If HHS found the price increase to be unreasonable, it could require the company to:

  • Reimburse consumers and payors, including Medicare and Medicaid;
  • Lower the price back down to its original price before the price gouging for up to one year; and,
  • Pay a civil penalty up to three times the excessive amount the manufacturer received as a result of price gouging.

 HHS could also refer the matter to the Department of Justice for enforcement.

 The full text of the legislation can be found here.