Lipinski Introduces Legislation to Combat Price-Gouging on Life-Sustaining Drugs (November 14, 2019)

WASHINGTON— Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) has introduced legislation to lower the cost of life-sustaining prescription drugs for seniors and others on Medicare.  It allows the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to leverage the purchasing power of the federal government along with prescription drug pricing data from other developed nations to ensure patients receive better pricing and are not being price-gouged on vital life-sustaining medications.

Lipinski’s bill, the Life-Sustaining Prescription Drug Price Relief Act of 2019 (HR 5039), begins with lifting the current legal ban on Medicare negotiating with drug companies for better prescription drug prices.  The federal government would then set up a process for the Secretary of HHS to review the cost of life-sustaining prescription drugs for excessive pricing. When a drug price is determined to be excessive, HHS will negotiate with manufacturers, prescription drug plan sponsors, and Medicare Advantage organizations to collaboratively work together to lower the cost of these drugs for patients.  Excessive pricing is defined as exceeding 110% of the average prices for such drugs in five reference countries: Canada, UK, Germany, France, and Japan.  Drug manufacturers who refuse to negotiate in good faith with Medicare would be penalized an amount equivalent to twice the “excess” profits on all U.S. sales of a particular drug.

“As someone who’s been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 30 years, I’m intimately familiar with how much the price of this life-sustaining drug has skyrocketed in recent years,” Lipinski said. “What these drug companies are allowed to get away with is unconscionable.  Passing this bill could save patients’ lives and save hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The FDA defines life-sustaining drugs as a product that is “essential to, or that yields information that is essential to, the restoration or continuation of a bodily function important to the continuation of human life.”  Examples of life-sustaining drugs include:

  • cancer chemotherapy drugs
  • epinephrine injectors like EpiPens to reverse life-threatening allergic reactions
  • drugs that restore normal heart rhythm for people with severe irregular heartbeat
  • anti-seizure medicine
  • emergency inhalers used to reverse asthma attacks
  • diabetes control medications like insulin
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