At Senate Hearing, Brown Presses HHS Secretary on High Cost of Prescription Drugs

HHS Secretary Acknowledges Price Spikes are Major Issue, Agrees to Work with Brown to Address ‘Price Gouging’ by Pharmaceutical Companies; Brown has Introduced Measures to Bring Down Drug Prices, Penalize Companies that Engage in Price Gouging

Download production-quality video of Senator Brown’s Questions for Secretary Azar HERE.

WASHINGTON, D.C. –At a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) pressed U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on the high cost of prescription drugs. Brown questioned Secretary Azar specifically on the practice by some pharmaceutical companies to increase the price of their product with no explanation, price gouging customers to increase the company’s profit margins. Secretary Azar agreed to work with Brown to address the practice.

“The government needs tools to prevent these companies from jacking up the price of lifesaving drugs like the EpiPen or naloxone overnight and making millions off the backs of hardworking Americans whose lives depend on these medicines,” said Brown. “My Stop Price Gouging Act would give the government the tools it needs to hold these bad actors accountable by imposing penalties on corporations proportionate to the severity of their price gouging.

Brown’s Stop Price Gouging Act, would hold drug companies accountable for large price increases, and, according to Health Affairs Blog, would result in billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Any revenues collected through the Stop Price Gouging Act would be reinvested in future drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Stop Price Gouging Act would:

  • Require drug companies to report increases in drug prices, and justify the increase.
  • Penalize drug companies that engage in unjustified price increases with financial penalties proportionate to the price spike.

In addition to the Stop Price Gouging Act, Brown and a group of Senators have introduced a package of proposals to help bring down the cost of prescription drugs. The package included provisions to stop price spikes by penalizing pharmaceutical companies that engage in price gouging and would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices – which the President promised to do throughout his campaign. Brown’s bill has been described as “just about every policy idea drug lobbyists hate.”

Brown’s package, called the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act, would help ensure that drug companies put patients before profits and bring some much-needed relief to families and seniors. The bill includes language authored by Brown to increase access to biosimilar drugs, providing additional competition in the marketplace and making them more affordable, and language to tax the windfall profits of drug companies when they drive up the cost of drugs without cause overnight.

In December 2016, Brown wrote to President Trump outlining specific steps his Administration should take to help Congress reduce prices for working Americans including: allowing the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate better prices for Medicare recipients; requiring drug companies to disclose costs associated with creating drugs so prices are more transparent; putting an end to abusive price gouging; and ensuring competition and innovation that will lead to greater competition and more affordable, effective drugs.

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