Durbin Highlights Efforts By Senate Democrats To Lower Prescription Drug Prices

In his speech on the Senate floor, Durbin calls out Senate Republicans for siding with Big Pharma’s price gouging, rather than joining in efforts to bring costs down

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today took to the Senate floor to deliver a speech on the indefensible price gouging of prescription drugs and the efforts by Senate Democrats to lower these prices for American patients. In his speech, Durbin called for legislation to allow the federal government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs, which would significantly ease the cost of living for many households across the country.   

“I wonder if Americans think that the cost of prescription drugs are too high. I wonder if Americans realize that the cost of prescription drugs are so high in this country that they're driving the cost of health insurance premiums up… Why are prescription drugs going up? There are only two companies allowed to advertise drugs on TV. One is America and the other is New Zealand…I wonder if the American people realize that the same exact prescription drugs sold here are sold at a deep discount in other countries…[In] Canada, the reason drugs cost less than they do in America is because the Canadian people won't tolerate the prices pharmaceutical companies charge people in this country. So they established standards and cut the prices for the exact same drugs made, manufactured, and sold in the United States,” Durbin began.

Durbin went on to explain that the federal government has already found success in negotiating prescription drug pricing for veterans seeking medical treatment at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities. Despite the success of the program, the federal government has yet to allow for prescription pricing negotiation on behalf of Medicare. As a result, America pays the highest prices in the world for drugs and millions of patients struggle to pay for their life-saving medications while pharmaceutical companies line their pockets.

“We decided that at least in one area -- one area we were going to make an exception to this overpricing of prescription drugs, the Veterans Administration. We said it cost a lot to keep our promise to veterans who have served this country and need medical care afterwards, and so we are going to allow the Veterans Administration, we do under law, to negotiate with the drug companies to bring prices down. It works. They were brought down dramatically. For the longest time many of us thought that isn’t enough, because most of the drugs are being sold outside the Veterans Administration. There’s no negotiation. It's a take it or leave it. Medicare, the tens millions of Americans covered by Medicare face the cost of drugs that are sky high,” said Durbin.

Durbin continued on, emphasizing that these pharmaceutical companies are profiting off taxpayer dollars by using research conducted by federal agencies to support the production of their medications while charging astronomical prices to consumers.

“The pharmaceutical industry typically spends more money on advertising than they do on research… You know what the number one supplier of research information is to the private sector pharmaceutical companies in America? The federal government. The National Institutes of Health. We spend tens of billions of dollars each year doing basic research, which is then used by the pharmaceutical companies to develop their drugs. Is it too much to ask them to bargain a fair price for the drugs sold to Medicare so that the taxpayers get a break and the pharmaceutical profits may go down just slightly? I don't think it's too much to ask,” Durbin said.

“I believe that when it comes to the drug industry in America, it is a great sector of our economy. They found some wonderful things with the help of federal research. But it's not unreasonable for us to ask, it is not socialistic for us to ask as American citizens, that they negotiate fair prices for all Americans. They do it for veterans, they can do it for Medicare and others. And if Senator McConnell is signaling for a fight over this issue, all I have to say are three words, bring it on. Bring it on,” Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.