Bernie Sanders proposes raft of legislation to combat rising drug prices

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders, a longtime pharma watchdog, says he's rolling out legislation to stall drug price hikes. The presidential candidate's proposals include some previously failed measures--including Medicare price negotiations--but they come at a time when public debate about the rising cost of meds has reached a fever pitch.

Citing a 12%-plus price increase for pharma products last year, Sanders accused the government of cowing to pharma industry pressure--and to its $230 million in lobbying spending over the same period.

"People should not have to go without the medication they need just because their elected officials aren't willing to challenge the drug and health care industry lobby," the Vermont senator said in a statement on his official website. "Between our government's unwillingness to negotiate prices and its failure to effectively fight fraud, it's no wonder drug prices are out of control."

It's a natural follow-up to Sanders recent efforts to spotlight rising prices for prescription drugs; he and Rep. Elijah Cummings have been investigating recent price hikes and introduced a bill that would mandate Medicaid rebates on generic meds whose prices rise faster than inflation.

Sanders' latest proposals include an oft-discussed, but just as often defeated, measure allowing the U.S. government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare. Ditto a proposal to allow reimportation of lower-cost drugs from other countries.

"We should use our buying power to get better deals for the American people. Other countries do it. Why don't we?" Sanders said in a statement on his official website.

Sanders' office also pointed out that the senator has backed re-importation of drugs for years. He went so far as to take Americans to Canada to buy a breast cancer treatment at a much lower price than that charged in the U.S.

Also included in the Vermont senator's proposed legislation will be prohibitions against the "pay-for-delay" patent settlements that the Federal Trade Commission has been fighting in court for years. A recent Supreme Court decision deemed such deals illegal on a case-by-case basis. It was a partial victory for the agency, which wanted cash settlements in patent cases to be considered anticompetitive unless proven otherwise.

- see the Sanders statement

Special Reports: 10 big brands keep pumping out big bucks, with a little help from price hikes | The top 10 most expensive drugs of 2013

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