Blumenthal Leads Five Colleagues in Introducing Bill to End Predatory Price Gouging to Lifesaving Drugs

The CURE High Drug Prices Act would give HHS authority to block pharmaceutical companies’ unjustified price increases on drugs

Legislation supported by Families USA, Patients for Affordable Drugs, Public Citizen, Consumer Report, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Protect Our Care, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Brain Tumor Society, and the American Academy of Neurology. 

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) led five colleagues in introducing legislation to end predatory price gouging on lifesaving drugs. The Combatting Unreasonable Rises and Excessively (CURE) High Drug Prices Act gives the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to block unjustified drug price increases and reimburse consumers who overpaid for their prescriptions. Blumenthal announced the legislation today at an event in Hartford, Connecticut, with Lisa Reisman and Laura Roberts, two constituents who spoke about the impact of excessive rise in drug prices, and Eric Arlia, Director of Pharmacy at Hartford Hospital.

U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined Blumenthal in introducing the CURE High Drug Prices Act.

Americans spend more on prescription drugs – $1,200 per person each year – than any other nation. Predatory pricing is one of the key factors in this increasingly unavoidable reality for Americans. The list price of 30 of the 39 best-selling drugs in the world – treating everything from arthritis and diabetes to Multiple Sclerosis and HIV –  increased at least double the rate of inflation from 2009-15.

“Pharmaceutical companies have shown that they are immune to being ‘named and shamed’ into doing the right thing, and this bill would finally empower the federal government to do more,” said Blumenthal.  “Lifesaving drugs should not cost astronomically higher today than when they were first brought to market. Turning back and preventing 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 lifesaving drugs. He also supports legislation that would allow the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices.

The CURE High Drug Prices Act is supported by: Families USA, Patients for Affordable Drugs, Public Citizen, Consumer Report, Center for Medicare Advocacy, Protect Our Care, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Brain Tumor Society, and American Academy of Neurology.

“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.”

“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, Merkley, Klobuchar, Harris, Schatz, and Sanders in moving this important bill forward.”

“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.”

“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.”

“The American people were loud and clear in November – they want real and concrete action to lower health care costs and rein in the abuses of insurance and drug companies and this legislation is a vital step in that direction,” said Brad Woodhouse, Executive Director of Protect Our Care.

“Medications can only change lives if people can afford them. Under this bill, more than half of the MS disease modifying medications would meet the thresholds and be required to justify their price increases. The price of medications for those living with multiple sclerosis will continue to increase unless Congress takes bold action to address these continual price increases.” said Bari Talente, Executive Vice President of Advocacy with the National MS Society. “The CURE High Drug Prices Act would tackle these increases head on.”

“Brain tumor patients already face incredibly limited treatment options, so affordable access to their medically necessary and potentially life-saving treatments is paramount,” said David Arons, Chief Executive Officer of the National Brain Tumor Society. “Unanticipated increases in the cost of their drugs can mean the critical difference between being able to adhere to their physician-prescribed treatment regimen and foregoing necessary care. We thank Senator Blumenthal for introducing the CURE High Drug Prices bill, which will be an important step for our patient community.”

“As a neurologist, I continue to see how some drugs experience steep price increases when they have changed only slightly or, sometimes, not at all,” said Nicholas E. Johnson, MD, FAAN, and Chair of the American Academy of Neurology’s Government Relations Committee. “In the case of Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome (LEMS), an older therapy previously provided to patients for free via the government’s Compassionate Use program, it recently saw a price increase to $375,000 per year. This is unacceptable. On behalf of our 36,000 members, the American Academy of Neurology thanks Senators Blumenthal, Merkley, Klobuchar, Harris, Schatz, and Sanders for introducing the CURE High Drug Prices Act. This legislation would increase transparency in drug pricing and provide the public, physicians and governments with justifications for price increases as well as new tools to ensure certain thresholds of price hikes are able to be limited.” 

Summary of 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.