Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing On Prescription Drug Prices, Competition, And Innovation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement during a Senate Judiciary Committee a hearing entitled “Ensuring Affordable & Accessible Medications: Examining Competition in the Prescription Drug Market.” The hearing will examine prescription drug prices, competition, and innovation, and how to ensure medications are accessible and affordable for American families.  Durbin spoke on the Senate floor yesterday to preview the hearing.

The United States has the highest prescription drug prices in the developed world, on average nearly three times higher than what other countries pay for some of the most common medications. Despite claims that these prices are necessary to fund research and development into the next generation of drugs, research suggests that the majority of innovation is driven by smaller companies, as well as taxpayer funding through the National Institutes of Health. The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over competition issues and the intellectual property system, which play critical roles in incentivizing true innovation and protecting a healthy market that keeps prices for prescription drugs within reach of the patients that need them.

Earlier this Congress, a package of bills advanced unanimously out of the Committee to lower prescription drug prices and are awaiting a vote in the full Senate, including the Interagency Patent Coordination and Improvement Act introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

Key Quotes:

“Patients in the United States pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world—nearly three times what people in other developed countries pay for common medications… And prices just keep going up.  In 2022, drug manufacturers raised the prices on more than 1,200 medications by an average of 32 percent—four times the rate of inflation.” 

“The poster child for high drug prices is insulin.  It was discovered 100 years ago by Canadian inventors who surrendered their patent rights for $1 because they believed nobody should profit from this life-saving medicine... When Eli Lilly launched its insulin product—Humalog—in 1999, a vial cost a modest $21.  Over the next 20 years, Eli Lilly raised the price of Humalog more than two-dozen times, with the cost ultimately rising to more than $330 for that same $21 vial.” 

“While the historic Inflation Reduction Act capped the price of insulin at $35 per month under Medicare, many patients are still paying inflated prices for a century-old drug.” 

“The pharmaceutical industry will tell you that the high prescription drug prices are the cost of innovation and point to billions of dollars they spend on research and development.”

“In fact, the National Institutes of Health plays an important role in innovation and research.  NIH funding contributed to 99 percent of all new drugs approved by FDA between 2010 and 2019, with $187 billion in taxpayer-funded research benefitting 354 of 356 new drugs.  NIH is part of the solution.  And too often the prices charged by Big Pharma do not reflect scientific advancement.  Rather, they are the result of skilled lawyers manipulating the patent system and skirting our nation’s competition laws.”

“This hearing will try to make clear that our work is not done.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.