SEN. GRASSLEY: Just because Big Pharma was bankrupting patients before the pandemic, doesn’t mean we should allow them to keep doing it now

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According to a recent Gallup poll, nine out of ten Americans are concerned about prescription drug prices. Specifically, they are concerned that the pharmaceutical industry will take advantage of the current pandemic to hike drug prices.

That poll was published a month ago. Unfortunately, those concerns have become a reality.

Two weeks ago, Politico reported that pharmaceutical companies have raised prices on hundreds of prescription drugs during the pandemic. The report says that there have been more than 800 –eight hundred – price increases just this year.

I’ve been working on a bill for over a year and a half to stem these increases and rein in drug prices. It would cap costs for Medicare recipients, cap increases to the rate inflation and save taxpayers nearly 100 billion dollars.

It wasn’t simple, but I’m glad to have produced that kind of bill with Ranking Member Wyden and my colleagues here with me today.

But I’m disappointed.

My partner and all of my Democratic colleagues who approved this bill in committee declined to cosponsor an improved version of the bill that they helped put together. I can’t be sure why, but I have to assume it’s because it’s an election year. And that passing a bill that would do so much good, in a time of so much hardship, might help Republicans who also support the bill, hurting Democrat chances of taking the majority.

As we consider a new relief bill, we ought to put aside that kind of politics-before-people legislating. We need to approve the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act as part of this package.

Our country is facing the most serious public health crisis in generations. Millions of Americans are newly unemployed and many small businesses have slowed or shuttered altogether. People across the country are stretching their paychecks and savings to get through the pandemic.

In the CARES Act and subsequent legislation, we helped slow the hurt from this virus. But there’s only so much a stimulus check or tax relief can do when your bills just keep going up.

These drug price increases are a weight that Americans just shouldn’t have to bear, especially seniors on whom the virus is taking a particular toll. The increases aren’t a result of a functioning marketplace or an industry with healthy competition.

Addressing these price increases is also something we all, largely, agree on.

In 2016, the president campaigned on making the marketplace for prescription drugs fairer and more affordable for patients. He won.

In 2018, many House Democrats campaigned on making the marketplace for prescription drugs fairer and more affordable. Many of them won. And they took over the House.

It’s time to put politics aside and finally act.

Just because Big Pharma was bankrupting patients before the pandemic, doesn’t mean we should allow them to keep doing it now. In fact, there’s no better time to put an end to Big Pharma’s price gouging than now