Durbin To McConnell: Americans Want Action On Prescription Drug Prices, Not Foreign Tax Treaties

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today on the Senate floor challenged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to end his legislative graveyard and bring bills to the floor that help lower the cost of prescription drugs for American families.  This week, the Senate will vote on four different tax treaties with Spain, Switzerland, Japan, and Luxembourg.  Durbin questioned why these treaties are more important to McConnell than working to hold pharmaceutical manufacturers of insulin accountable for exorbitant price increases of more than 600 percent over the past two decades in the United States.  

“When you look at the issues that most American families want us to address, I would say the tax treaty with Luxembourg is low on the list. What should be high on the list, and what should be considered in the Senate this week, is the number one concern of families across America…the number one issue when asked about the economy of the United States, is the cost of prescription drugs,” Durbin said. “It's more important for us to deal with this issue of prescription drugs and to ask yourself why this United States Senate, this empty chamber is not filled with Senators of both political parties doing something about the cost of prescription drugs.” 

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

Last week, Durbin, along with Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Tina Smith (D-MN), introduced the Affordable Insulin Approvals Now Act, a bipartisan bill to speed up approvals of lower-cost, generic, and “follow-on” insulin products in order to help lower costs of the life-saving drug.  The legislation would help lower the price of insulin by promoting competition and bringing lower-cost generic products to market sooner—specifically by requiring FDA to continue reviewing generic insulin applications even after the agency’s currently planned March 2020 cut-off date. 

In order to deter Big Pharma’s greed and price-gouging, Durbin introduced the Forcing Limits on Abusive and Tumultuous Prices (FLAT) Prices Act.  The FLAT Prices Actwould reduce the FDA-granted exclusivity period for a drug whose price increases more than 10 percent in a year, or similar amounts over a multi-year period.  Drug manufacturers would be required to self-report their price spikes to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and they would have the opportunity to provide an appeal to justify such a price increase.  Failure to report such a price hike would incur additional reductions in market exclusivity.

The United States represents only 15 percent of the global insulin market, yet generates nearly half of pharma’s revenue on insulin.  Lantus, a popular long-acting insulin, cost $35 when it was first introduced in 2001.  Within the past few years, the price of Lantus vial has skyrocketed to more than $372, while that same exact drug was sold in France for $46, and $67 in Canada.  

The manufacturer of Lantus insulin, Sanofi, has obtained 45 follow-on patents after FDA approval of the insulin, which have delayed generic competition.  To prevent these patent abuses, Durbin also introduced a bipartisan bill to tackle the pharmaceutical industry’s practice of gaming the patent system to extend monopolies on lifesaving drugs. The Reforming Evergreening and Manipulation that Extends Drug Years (REMEDY) Act, would lower prescription drug prices and promote competition by removing barriers to FDA approval for lower-cost generic drugs.