June 28, 2017

Udall Presses Trump to Get Behind Real Solutions to Bring Down Prescription Drug Costs

Group of lawmakers urges president to support landmark proposal to actually address skyrocketing drug pricesGroup of lawmakers urges president to support landmark proposal to actually address skyrocketing drug prices

WASHINGTON — As the White House prepares to gift the big pharmaceutical companies with an executive order that reportedly favors the industry over consumers, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) and a wide group of Senate and House Democrats in pushing President Trump to keep his promise to bring down drug costs and get behind real solutions to reduce the skyrocketing price of prescription drugs, one of the central reasons why health care costs are rising.

An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that prescription drug prices are too high and that we need action to lower prices. In a letter to Trump, the lawmakers urged the president to support their Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act, a comprehensive bill to help ensure that drug companies put patients before profits and bring some much-needed relief to families and seniors. This legislation is supported by a broad range of organizations and patient advocacy groups. It aims to help patients afford their medications, unlike the executive order being prepared by the White House. According to press reports, the president's order would do little to actually address rising drug costs—and instead, it would give drug monopolies more power to shake down patients and would ease regulations on an industry that’s already hiking prices at an alarming rate.

“We hear time and time again from our constituents across the country about how high prices for life-saving and life-sustaining treatments force patients to choose between their health and their economic security,” the lawmakers wrote to Trump. “Now is the time to address the American people's concerns in a meaningful way. We urge you to stand up to the pharmaceutical corporations and put the needs of patients first and to support a comprehensive approach that offers real solutions that will make a real difference in peoples’ lives.”

The letter to Trump was led by Franken and, in addition to Udall, was signed by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). It also was signed by U.S. Representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ari.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Kathy Castor (D-Fl.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).

Udall is a cosponsor of the landmark legislation to tackle prescription drug costs by increasing transparency and accountability, boosting access and affordability of key drugs, spurring innovation, and increasing choice and competition.

The letter can be found below and here.

Dear President Trump:

We are deeply concerned by news reports suggesting that your administration is failing on one of your principal campaign promises, namely that you would bring down prescription drug prices for American consumers. Instead, under your leadership, your administration is reportedly pursuing an executive order that “appears to give the pharmaceutical industry much of what it has asked for.” At a time when profits of prescription drug corporations are at an all-time high and patients are skipping doses because of unaffordable drug prices, pursuing such an executive order is an abdication of your responsibilities to the American people.

We are particularly troubled by reports that your administration’s draft executive order includes policies that, perversely, would make prescription drugs more expensive here and abroad. In particular, we are concerned that the draft executive order targets the 340B drug pricing program. The 340B program requires pharmaceutical corporations to provide discounts to hospitals and clinics that serve large numbers of low-income patients. Low-income patients in the U.S. are the most vulnerable to high drug prices. If, as reported, your administration scales back this program, more Americans of limited means will be forced to choose between health and other basic life necessities, like putting food on the table and a roof overhead for the family.

Reports also suggest that your draft executive order would direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other related agencies to roll back regulations. Weakening regulations at the FDA would not reduce prescription drug prices, but it could compromise patient safety. The FDA is not the source of the crisis of high drug prices that our country faces. Instead, a 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that drug corporations set prices to maximize profits. Rather than focusing on efforts that could undermine U.S. efforts to maintain the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs, efforts at the FDA should be focused on priorities that will result in lower costs for American consumers, such as eliminating barriers that prevent getting generic drugs to market faster and ensuring robust competition in the marketplace.

On the campaign trail, you promised to address high drug prices. You supported measures that would allow consumers to access imported, safe, and dependable drugs from overseas and vowed to allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for seniors. After the election, you again said that you would "bring down drug prices." But since taking office, you have not followed through on these campaign promises. Instead, your administration is pursuing an executive order that does not include the solutions you promised or the relief that Americans need, and could actually result in increased prices for the American people.

Simultaneously, your administration and Congressional Republicans are attempting to rip health coverage, including prescription drug coverage, away from millions of Americans. Taking away Americans’ health coverage will make the problem of unaffordable medicines even worse, and ineffective proposals from the drug industry are not a solution.

Rather than pursuing policies that disproportionately benefit the prescription drug industry, you owe it to the American people to make good on your promises by pursuing thoughtful, aggressive, comprehensive policies that will tackle the root causes of high prescription drug prices. Our offices have recently introduced or support legislation to do just that. The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act is a comprehensive solution that will bring transparency to drug pricing, increase the affordability of drugs, spur innovation in new treatments, and promote choice and competition in the drug market. It’s time we identify and carry out reforms to ensure the federal government’s power as both a purchaser and payer can be leveraged to better serve American families who are making impossible choices just to get the treatment they need to survive.

We hear time and time again from our constituents across the country about how high prices for life-saving and life-sustaining treatments force patients to choose between their health and their economic security. Now is the time to address the American people's concerns in a meaningful way. We urge you to stand up to the pharmaceutical corporations, put the needs of patients first, and support a comprehensive approach that offers real solutions that will make a real difference in peoples’ lives.

Sincerely,