Durbin Calls for Action on Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Costs

As business is booming for big pharma, patients are struggling to afford higher drug costs with no relief in sight

CHICAGO – As the costs of prescription drugs continue to soar under the Trump Administration, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called for action on several pieces of legislation that would hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable, curb price hikes, and bring much-needed transparency to price setting for prescription drugs in the U.S.  


“Health care is too expensive for too many working families, and the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs is only exacerbating the problem, causing higher out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy and ever-rising monthly premiums. Not to mention what these escalating price tags mean for our federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, which are supported with taxpayer dollars,” Durbin said. “Instead of tweeting, there are several initiatives the President should support to reduce costs for families, including requiring companies to list the price of drugs in television ads and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. Americans are being squeezed at the pharmacy counter, it’s about time we take action on real solutions.”


Since President Trump took office in January 2017, the cost of Lyrica, made by Pfizer and used for seizures and pain, has gone up 29 percent.  Humira, made by AbbVie and used for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis has gone up 19 percent.  Xarelto, made by Janssen for blood clots, has gone up 17 percent.  Each of these drugs costs Medicare $2 billion annually, but instead of actions to lower prescription drug costs, pharmaceutical manufacturers spent more than $100 million on television ads for these drugs last year in order to inflate demand for these medications.


Durbin has introduced various pieces of legislation to help reduce prescription drug costs for Americans. Recently, he introduced legislation to empower patients and promote transparency by requiring the pharmaceutical industry to provide more information about the cost of drugs in their advertisements.  The Drug-price Transparency in Communications Act would require drug companies to disclose drug in direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising and in marketing to prescribers.  This legislation has been endorsed by several medical organizations as a way to lower costs and combat the $6 billion in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising from the pharmaceutical industry.


Further, Durbin has long supported efforts to increase competition and help lower drug costs for seniors and persons with disabilities who are enrolled in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. For over a decade, he has introduced the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act, ?which would provide an alternative to the confusing private prescription drug plans, marketing practices, and formulary changes that have made deciphering among Medicare Part D plans difficult.


Durbin is also an original co-sponsor of the bipartisan CREATES Act, which would target abusive delay tactics that are being used by brand-name drug companies to block entry of affordable generic drugs. Common delay tactics include brand-name companies preventing potential generic competitors from obtaining samples to perform necessary testing or participating in a shared safety protocol.  The CREATES Act would allow generic drug manufacturers that are unable to obtain the samples necessary to gain FDA approval to file for injunctive relief in federal court.  This legislation was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month.


Patients have been dealing with skyrocketing drug costs for years, with 12 of the top 20 drugs paid for by Medicare increasing by 50 percent in the past years—six with price hikes of more than 100 percent.  President Trump has promised to bring down drug prices, but since he took office, average drug prices have increased and there have been no new rules implemented to rein in costs. Instead of working to bring down drug costs for patients, President Trump and congressional Republicans gave Big Pharma companies a $40 billion tax break last year. Five of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. (AbbVie, Amgen, Eli Lilly, Merck, and Pfizer) received $6.3 billion in tax breaks.