Senator Amy Klobuchar continues fight to lower prescription drug prices

(ABC 6 News) – On Friday, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) hosted a virtual conference with health care advocates and drug pricing experts to highlight the urgent need to pass a reconciliation package to lower prescription drug prices.

Klobuchar was joined by David Mitchell, President and Founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs, Steffany Stern, Vice President of Advocacy at the National MS Society, and Dr. Vincent Rajkumar of Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

“Prescription drug prices in the U.S. are more than 250% higher than other industrialized countries. In many cases, Americans pay the highest prices in the world for the same brand name drugs,” says Klobuchar.

The results of the high prices are dire. Klobuchar stated that, “nearly 20% of older adults have reported not taking their medicine(s) as prescribed because of the cost(s), and too many American seniors are feeling the weight of the current system as some skip doses or even ration pills and risk their health.”

Mitchell, who has an incurable blood cancer, says his “doctors have him on a four drug combination that carries a list price of more than $900,000 a year.”

Dr. Rajkumar, who is an expert in multiple myeloma, led the trial and got approval for the uses of thalidomide and pomalidomide. He also works with the drug revlimid which is the number two drug that Medicare spends money on and cost $4.6 billion in 2019. It was launched in 2005 for $4,500 a month and now is more than $18,000. He says, “it illustrates everything we need to do to lower the price of prescription drugs and how easily drug companies can increase the price far more than inflation.”

Stern, has been part of the MS community since she was one-year old because that was when her mother was diagnosed with MS says, “it’s a constant struggle for my mother to afford the medications with a current price tag at $104,000 a year which has gone up in price more than 35% in just the last five years along with several other MS drugs.”

Klobuchar has long been a leader in the fight to lower prescription drug and medication prices. She says, “we finally in the next few weeks are going to move forward on doing something about Medicare prescription drug negotiation…Too many American seniors are being crushed by the weight of the current system. They feel it…when they have to choose whether to refill their meds or pay their electric bill. It’s finally time to do something about it,” said Klobuchar. “Passing this legislation is going to reduce spending for millions of patients every time they visit a pharmacy or a doctor…and critically it’s going to give patients the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their health expenses will be more stable…We have the votes and we have the grit to get this done.”

Last month, Klobuchar and Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) urged the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission to examine parallel price increases of widely-used blood-thinning medications.

In February, Klobuchar and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act, which would allow Medicare to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the Veterans’ Administration (VA). The prices the VA pays for prescription drugs are roughly half the amount of prices paid by Medicare Part D for the same products.