Brown goes after drug industry

2017-06-16 | The Ironton Tribune

June 16--WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced on Wednesday legislation he will introduce with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, to penalize pharmaceutical companies that he says engage in price gouging without cause.

Brown said the price gouging leads to price spikes for patients who rely on medication to treat diseases, ranging from cancer to addiction.

The senator said his bill, the Stop Price Gouging Act, would hold drug companies accountable for large price increases and, according to Health Affairs Blog, would result in billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers.

"The purpose of prescription drugs is to allow Ohioans to live longer, healthier lives -- not to line the pockets of Big Pharma executives," Brown said in a conference call with reporters.

"Too many Ohioans still struggle to afford the medicine they need, and often, the culprit is price gouging by big pharmaceutical corporations," he said. "It has to stop, and that's why I'm introducing the Stop Price Gouging Act, to protect Ohioans from prescription drug price spikes and to require drug companies to report increases in drug prices, and justify their increases."

Brown said his bill would require drug companies to report increases in drug prices, and justify the increase, as well as penalize drug companies that engage in unjustified price increases with financial penalties proportionate to the price spike.

Brown's office said any revenues collected through the Stop Price Gouging Act would be reinvested in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health.

Brown was joined on the call by Elizabeth Borgemenke, a southwest Ohio patient who wrote into Brown's office regarding the skyrocketing cost of insulin.

"The cost of medication has soared to a level that is causing pain and suffering to the millions of people who depend on them for survival," Borgemenke said. "This is not a partisan issue; this is an issue affecting all Americans. I feel strongly that drug companies have to be held accountable, and this legislation is an important first step."

Brown said the price of insulin has spiked in recent decades.

"The drug companies expect the hospitals, taxpayers and insurers to pick up the tab," he said, adding the problem exists for other pharmaceuticals. "They make drugs used for cancer and opioid treatment unaffordable as well. It is not the purpose of prescription drugs to line the pockets of pharmaceutical executives."

Brown said it is important that the media focuses on this problem.

"They don't like to operate in sunlight or face the public, which has an ability to push back," he said.

Brown said many of the drug companies are benefitting from taxpayer-funded research and development.

"They use that to build on," he said. "The drug companies owe us something back when they use taxpayer-funded research."

Brown said his bill is part of his larger effort to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Ohioans, which have been described as "every policy idea drug lobbyists hate."

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