Yesterday, Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) worked alongside his Democratic colleagues on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to advance H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, a bill to reduce prescription drug prices for all Americans.
During the committee markup, Congressman Sarbanes took a moment to honor his colleague, the late Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), and highlight Congressman Cummings’ lifelong commitment to improving access to health care and lowering drug prices for people in underserved communities.
“[Congressman Cummings] wanted to lift up the voices of people who he felt were marginalized every day, not just in his community, but across the country, and also he wanted to alleviate their pain,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “In many ways, his principal fight was on this issue of drug prices…. So at the very least, as a tribute to him, we have to commit our energies to trying to get this legislation passed and bring relief to millions of Americans across the country who are suffering from these high drug prices.”
Later in the committee markup, Congressman Sarbanes pointed out major flaws with Republicans’ misleading claims that huge pharmaceutical companies cannot afford to conduct research without setting unreasonably high prices.
“When you look at the way the pharmaceutical industry has been operating, they’ve got plenty of room there to continue to do good research and innovation and pioneer these important breakthrough drugs on behalf of the American people – at the same time that we can bring the cost of these drugs down,” Congressman Sarbanes said. “You can have all the breakthrough drugs in the world, but if people who need them can’t afford them, then what good does that do?”
Congressman Sarbanes continued: “If I’m the pharmaceutical industry, and I’m sitting around, anticipating this hearing and I’m trying to figure out what’s the best argument that we have that we can throw out there to protect this incredibly huge profit margin that we’ve been able to assemble over the last few years, I would do exactly what’s being done. I’d say, ‘If you pass this bill, it’s gonna undermine effective research and innovation.’ I get why that’s the argument that you’re going to. But it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny….”
Congressman Sarbanes concluded: “There’s plenty of room here to continue to do the research we need – not just the private research that industry can offer, and does very effectively, but with the savings that get generated to then bolster the kind of public research we can do, the research in the public sector, through agencies like NIH, and put together a combination effort that keeps drug prices low and gets the research done, so that we can deliver these lifesaving drugs to Americans all across the country.”
Key provisions of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act include:
- Allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices directly with pharmaceutical companies and creating powerful new tools to force drug manufactures to reduce prices, while ensuring that seniors never lose access to the prescriptions they need.
- Making lower drug prices available to all Americans – not just Medicare beneficiaries, but also those with private insurance.
- Preventing drug companies from ripping off Americans while they charge other countries far less for the same drugs.
- Creating a new, $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries and reversing years of unfair price hikes for thousands of drugs.
- Reinvesting drug cost savings in medical research and innovation to find new cures and treatments.