WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) today announced legislation that would address the prescription drug affordability crisis. Their Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate drug prices and, if drug companies refuse to negotiate in good faith, it would enable the Secretary to issue a competitive, compulsory license to another company that is willing and able to produce the medication as a generic. 

Senator Brown is the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate; the original cosponsors of the bill in the Senate are Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Congressman Doggett is the lead sponsor of the bill in the House of Representatives; his original cosponsors of the bill in the House are Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD). 

“The purpose of medicine is to help people, not to line the pockets of Big Pharma executives. Our bill would call Big Pharma’s bluff and demand prescription drug companies offer fair prices, or be boxed out,” said Sen. Brown, who also introduced the Stop Price Gouging Act today. That bill would penalize pharmaceutical companies that engage in price gouging without cause, leading to price spikes for patients who rely on medication to treat diseases ranging from cancer to addiction. 

“Let’s cut prices so that patients don’t have to cut pills in half. Our proposal responds to an American problem, rampant prescription price gouging, with an American solution—negotiation and competition. We repeal and replace the Republican-imposed law prohibiting negotiation and empower the use of generic competition to lower prices,” said Rep. Doggett. “While there is no wonder drug to eliminate price gouging, the cure begins by making patients’ health and security nonnegotiable. We call on President Trump to follow the advice of Candidate Trump; let’s start saving billions through ‘bidding.’ 

“Medicare is one of the largest drug purchasers in the country. It should not be restricted from negotiating the best deal with drug manufacturers,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “Americans deserve better. I have fought for years to unleash the bargaining power of seniors on Medicare and this bill offers another important step towards lowering the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.” 

“We have a broken system in Washington that prohibits the federal government from negotiating lower prescription drug prices for older Wisconsinites,” said Sen. Baldwin. “I have long championed efforts to allow the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical corporations to get better prices on lifesaving medicines instead of increasing drug company profits. President Trump campaigned in 2016 on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, including by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. It’s time for the President to work with Congress to pass this reform and help lower out-of-pocket costs for seniors.”  

American patients are burdened by high drug prices, as these same patients’ tax dollars go into protecting government-approved, government-funded monopolies. The top healthcare concern for Americans is skyrocketing prescription drug prices. It is past time for a patient-first plan to lower them. 

Big pharmaceutical companies often use scare tactics in order to maintain the highest profits of any industry. Prescription drug companies have previously made threats against negotiations bills, stating that if they were forced to negotiate more competitive prices, they would simply refuse to sell its drugs to people on Medicare. Brown and Doggett said this industry practice puts profits over people. The Brown-Doggett bill stipulates that if pharmaceutical companies refuse to agree to a reasonable price on a given medication, the Secretary of HHS could issue this competitive, compulsory license to another company that will offer the drug at a price that’s fair to Medicare beneficiaries and taxpayers. 

In 2018, Americans spent an all-time high of $360 billion on prescription drugs. According to a 2016 Consumer Reports survey, 30 percent of Americans who experienced an increase in the price of one or more of their medications left a prescription unfilled because it was too expensive; 15 percent said they cut pills in half to make them last longer.