Durbin Calls for Additional Action to Address Skyrocketing Prescription Drug Costs

Senator Highlights Transparency in Pharmaceutical Advertising & Promotion of Affordable Generic Drugs

PEORIA – As the costs of prescription drugs continue to rise, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today joined leaders and doctors at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois to discuss new efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable and lower prices for consumers. Durbin has introduced legislation to require disclosure of prices in prescription drug advertising to consumers and has co-sponsored a bipartisan bill, approved yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, to combat abusive delay tactics used by brand-name drug companies to block entry of affordable generic drugs.


“Health care is too expensive for too many working families, and the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs drives 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. “By requiring drug companies to tell us their prices and cracking down on gimmicks used to reduce competition, two bipartisan measures I’ve supported, we can create a more transparent and affordable system for consumers.” 


At the same time that the pharmaceutical industry is dramatically increasing prices on patients and the federal government, it spends more than $6 billion on advertising drugs to consumers and more than $20 billion in aggressive marketing to prescribers. Last month Durbin sent letters to top pharmaceutical companies urging them voluntarily list the price of their drugs in their advertisments to consumers. The letters came on the heels of legislation he introduced and recent endorsements from President Trump and Health and Human Services Secretary Azar for requiring price listing in direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertisements.


Durbin’s Drug-price Transparency in Communications Act would:


  • Require that direct-to-consumer advertisements disclose the Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC) of a drug.  Failure to do so would be penalized as a false or misleading statement, resulting in a fine of up to $1 million for a first-time violation that would be transferred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for medical research; and


  • Require pharmaceutical communications with health care practitioners to include the WAC of the drug.  Failure to do so would be penalized as an unfair and deceptive trade practice under an administrative complaint process.


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. The CREATES Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, and is expected to save the federal government nearly $4 billion.


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.


Since the beginning of 2017, when President Trump took office, the cost of Lyrica, has gone up 29 percent—now costing an average of $568 per month; Humira has increased 19 percent to $5,500 per month; and Xarelto has gone up 17 percent, now costing $522 per month. Manufacturers spent more than $100 million on television ads for these drugs last year. In 2016 alone, Medicare spent $2 billion on each of these drugs. 


It's not just skyrocketing costs that have harmed consumers.  Many patients have faced critical shortages of the medicine they need.  For example, life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors like EpiPens were placed on a list of drug shortages by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA previously warned the makers of EpiPens about a problem in following good-manufacturing practices at their facility.  In recent years, EpiPen costs have skyrocketed from $100 for a 2-pack in 2007 to over $600 today. Thanks to public outcry, a generic version of EpiPen is currently available for $300. Earlier this month, Durbin sent letters to the FDA and drug manufacturers requesting more information about these shortages.