Durbin: If Republicans Really Care About Inflation, Why Are They Opposing Plans To Lower Prescription Drug Prices?

Durbin urges Republicans to join Democrats and allow Medicare to negotiate a fair price for medications to help millions of Americans

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) urged Republicans to join Democrats and lower the cost of prescription drug prices. Due to Big Pharma’s price gouging, Americans pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, an average of nearly 4 times more than other Western countries for the exact same medications—many of which are developed in the United States using research paid for by American taxpayers. During his speech, Durbin criticized Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for his opposition to lowering drug prices, which will help millions of Americans.

Durbin said, “A doctor prescribes a drug, they take the prescription to the drugstore, they get it filled, and then comes the moment of truth, the moment at the cash register when a family is told incidentally that'll cost you $100, $200, $300 over your insurance coverage. And you know what some families say? I wish I could afford that… so when the Republicans come to the floor and talk about family expenses, it comes as a shock they are planning to oppose the Democratic effort to establish prescription drug price controls.”

Durbin went on to explain that American taxpayers are paying the price for these sky rocketing prescription drug prices. In 2008, when a new drug came on the market, the average cost for a year’s supply was $2,100.  Today, the average new drug costs nearly $200,000 for a year’s worth.  These drug costs are not just hurting Americans financially, but they are harming people’s health. One in five Americans also don’t take prescriptions as indicated because they can’t afford it.

Durbin continued, “Democrats don't want to give speeches about the cost to families. We want to do something. We want to bring down the cost of prescription drugs for seniors first and then for families in general. If you really care about inflation, most families would say, start with prescription drugs. That's what we're doing. And the Republicans are going to oppose this.”

Democrats are proposing using Medicare to negotiate fair prices for the medications used by seniors, which is how the Veterans Administration (VA) already pays for medications. Bargaining for fair prices allows the VA to pay an average of half of what Medicare pays for the same drugs. Eighty-three percent of Americans support allowing Medicare to negotiate fair drug prices; that includes 71 percent of Republicans. 

“Studies have found that Big Pharma could lose $1 trillion in sales over the next decade and it would still remain the most profitable industry in the country,” said Durbin. “That’s right: a higher profit margin than the telecom industry, than defense corporations, or big Banks, and Republicans want to side with them over American patients?”

Durbin also highlighted the skyrocketing price of insulin, an essential drug for diabetic patients. The price in the U.S. for some of the most common insulin products today is $300 per vial.  Those prices have quadrupled in the last fifteen years for the exact same dose. Approximately eight million Americans rely on insulin to manage their blood sugar.  But at $300 per vial, they can be spending more than $1,000 per month for medication that keeps them alive.

Durbin concluded, “If you care about the cost that families face, if you care about inflation, and you care about life-or-death medications and you want to make them affordable, don't take the position of Senator McConnell that this is socialism to demand negotiation on pricing, this is a life-or-death decision. Even 70 percent of Republicans agree with that. I wish the Senate Republicans would agree with it and join us in supporting this bill.”

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.