Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Last year, I met two identical twin girls from Cambridge, Minnesota. One is a pitcher and the other is a catcher on their softball team. A few years ago, one of them found out that she has diabetes. The other twin is perfectly healthy. The family now must buy insulin, but the price has tripled over the last decade, making it very difficult for them to afford.
Does it matter if the pitcher or the catcher has diabetes? No. They both deserve to be able to afford the prescription drugs they need.
I’ve heard similar stories again and again — people choosing between paying the mortgage for the month, turning on the heat in the winter, or refilling a critical prescription. That’s just not right. No one should be forced into bankruptcy because they’re sick or have a chronic medical condition.
In the United States, the prices of four out of the top 10 drugs have gone up by 100 percent over the last 10 years. The price for a multiple sclerosis drug went up 21 times in a decade. One drug company actually increased the price of naloxone, the drug that treats life-threatening opioid overdoses, from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Instead of letting drug companies make these life-saving drugs more expensive, Congress should be working to make them more affordable. There are commonsense actions that we can take right now to lower the price of prescription drugs.
First, we can look beyond our borders and make sure Americans can import safe drugs that cost less. In Canada, people spend half as much per person for prescription drugs as we do.
For example, in the U.S., a 90-day supply of an anti-inflammatory drug called Celebrex can cost more than $1,000. Canadian pharmacies sell it for only about $220. These are the same drugs with the same safety standards and the same dosages that are sold in the United States, yet under current law, American families are paying much higher prices — that’s just wrong.
It’s why I joined with Sen. John McCain to push for a commonsense, bipartisan fix that would allow Americans to safely import prescription drugs from Canada.
Second, as the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition, I know that competition is one of the best ways to make sure prescription drugs are affordable. Where there’s a lack of competition, price increases are sure to follow.
We can start by ending a true outrage called “pay for delay,” where big brand-name pharmaceutical companies pay off generic manufacturers to keep less expensive products off the market. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, stopping this ridiculous practice would save taxpayers $2.9 billion. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley from Iowa and I have a bill that would end these anti-competitive “pay-for-delay” agreements.
There’s also a bipartisan proposal that would put a stop to other pharmaceutical company tactics – like refusing to provide samples or share important information about how to distribute a drug safely. All of these delay more affordable generic drugs from getting to market.
Third, let’s finally give the 41 million seniors in Medicare Part D the power to negotiate for the best possible price of their prescription drugs. We all know our seniors are usually pretty good at finding a bargain – we should let them bargain for one of the most important and expensive things they buy. I have a bill, which already has the support of 33 other senators, to lift the ban that prohibits Medicare from negotiating prescription drug prices. It’s time we get this done.
The longer we wait to take action, the higher the prices will rise, and the higher the costs will be for patients, taxpayers, and the family of those twin girls in Cambridge. I won’t stop fighting until we finally start lowering the costs of prescription drugs for Minnesotans and people across the country.