Klobuchar has led legislation to lower prescription drug prices and increase access to medication


WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and over 70 affordable health care groups held a press conference highlighting the urgent need to take action on legislation to lower prescription drug prices and new evidence of the overwhelming support the American people have for empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices and limiting medication price hikes.

“The results are clear: we have the highest costs and prices for drugs in the developed world. Why? Because Big Pharma got a provision written into law that Medicare cannot negotiate less expensive drug prices for the seniors of this country,” said Klobuchar. “It is time to take this on and do something for the American people.” 

Klobuchar urged the passage of her bicameral legislation with Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) to allow Medicare to negotiate affordable drug prices for seniors. She also called for other steps to lower prescription drug costs, including ending outrageous price hikes, limiting out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries, and capping insulin copays at $35 per month.

Klobuchar was joined by AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins; cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now David Mitchell; Doctors for America representative Rita Kuwahara, MD, MIH; National Multiple Sclerosis Society Executive Vice President of Advocacy and Healthcare Access Bari Talente; SEIU International Executive Vice President Valarie Long; Purchaser Business Group on Health (PBGH) Executive Director for National Health Policy Bill Kramer; fibromyalgia patient Meg Jackson-Drage from Magna, UT; and ankylosing spondylitis patient Jacqueline Garibay from Austin, TX. 

Klobuchar has long been a leader in the fight to lower prescription drug and medication prices. Last month, Klobuchar led a group of bicameral colleagues in calling out drug manufacturers for rapid and widespread price hikes on prescription drugs. 

In March, Klobuchar joined 18 of her colleagues to introduce the Affordable Insulin Now Act, legislation that caps out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35 per month.

In February, Klobuchar and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act, which would allow Medicare to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the Veterans’ Administration (VA). The prices the VA pays for prescription drugs are roughly half the amount of prices paid by Medicare Part D for the same products.

Klobuchar’s full remarks are given below, available for TV download HERE and for online viewing HERE

Senator Klobuchar: Thank you so much David. Thank you everyone. This is a lot warmer than Minnesota, I’ve got to say. I’m happy to be back and I'm especially honored to be with my friend [Senator] Catherine Cortez Masto, former Attorney General of Nevada. She has an understanding of what this really means to people in their everyday lives. I also want to thank JoAnn Jenkins who’s been tireless, maybe some of you have seen her on TV ads. She has not given up. And AARP, such a powerful organization, stands with us. 

We’re here to say this is it. This is game day. And I'm not just saying that because the Timberwolves are playing tonight. I'm saying that, for those of you that aren’t watching the NBA playoffs, we’re proud of our team, but I'm saying this because this is it. The next two months, we’ve got to get this done. And we were so close a few months ago. And so I am not going to be able to stay the entire time, but for those of you who are in the nitty-gritty of what's happening with the Senate procedures, yes. This is on the table big time. And as you know, we were very close to an agreement on the provisions between the House and the Senate for negotiations. So while we are undergoing bipartisan negotiations on the insulin issue and the insulin cap, right now, right now, and this is why Catherine and I are out here today on this beautiful spring day, we are working to get done the Medicare negotiation [of drug prices bill]. 

Why? The results are clear. Prescription drug prices in the U.S. are more than 250 percent than those in other industrialized nations. We have the highest cost in prices for drugs in the world. In the past 5 years, the cost of Lyrica, that’s nerve pain drugs, you know what it is, and Symbicort, a common asthma medication, those have increased almost 50 percent. The results are dire. Nearly 40 percent of patients did not take their drugs as prescribed due to high costs. And 20 percent of patients took on debt to pay their medications. 

Why? Well, years ago, Big Pharma got a provision written into law, let me make that clear, this isn’t some court case, it’s written into law that Medicare cannot negotiate less expensive drug prices for the seniors of this country. They’re banned, it's a ban for negotiations. While the VA can negotiate and get much better prices, and [while] we’re so happy they do that for the veterans, [it’s] not for the over 40 million seniors in the United States of America. 

Why? Well Big Pharma thinks they own Washington, but they don’t own me and they don't own JoAnn Jenkins and they don’t own AARP and they don’t own you. And this is the moment to make it clear. I am glad that we have been engaged in negotiations with our colleagues. I am disappointed that my Republican colleagues–more than disappointed–are not joining us on this very straightforward pro-consumer, pro-people provision. And yet, we were so close to getting it done just a few months ago in that archaic process called reconciliation, that no, I'm not going to get into right now. And we are close to doing it again. We must get this done.

I don't know how else you'd help people like Claire from St. Paul. The cost of the prescription drug she relied on to manage her rheumatoid arthritis jumped from $60 per month to $1400 per month. After trying unsuccessful alternative medications, Claire began trying to self-medicate with the over-the-counter options. As a result her arthritis got so bad that she couldn’t even hold a fork. Or the other people I've met, seniors in Minnesota that literally take their insulin and they save it, the little drops of it, from day to day to day. A common drug that used to just cost a couple bucks, but in the hands of pharmaceutical companies that are trying to make a whole bunch of money on the backs of the seniors of this country, it skyrocketed up. 

Again the solutions: pass my bill and make some version of it part of reconciliation to unleash the power of 46 million seniors so they can negotiate for better prices. Number two: end the outrageous and unpredictable medication prices. Number three: limit the out-of-pocket cost for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. And number four: cap the insulin copays at $35 per month. A bill that my friend Senator Warnock has introduced and something that is currently in negotiation with the Republicans. 

That’s how you stand up to the lobbyists in every corner of that building. There are literally more than two lobbyists per member of Congress when it comes to pharmaceuticals. It is time to take this on and do something for the people of America. Running ads on it, talking about it all the time, okay fine. But at some point you have to get it done. And I call on my colleagues to do that. Thank you very much.