Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) yesterday released a statement on the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act, which passed the Senate this week 98-2.
“Every day, Americans buy prescription drugs without a true idea of how much those drugs cost. Pharmacists should be able to tell you if there’s a cheaper way to buy prescription drugs, and yet they are unable to do so. Due to so-called “gag orders,” pharmacists can be prevented from providing this information proactively to patients. With prescription drug costs rising, Americans should have access to transparent pricing information—especially when it can lower their costs.” Feinstein remarked. “Today, the Senate takes a significant step toward improving drug price transparency.”
Feinstein’s full statement follows:
“Madam President, as the Senate debates the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S.2554), I rise to offer my views on the need for transparency in drug prices and to offer my strong endorsement of this bill. This legislation that we are voting on today represents a serious, bipartisan effort to lift barriers that prevent pharmacists from informing consumers about how much prescription drugs cost. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this legislation.
Every day, Americans buy prescription drugs without a true idea of how much those drugs cost. Pharmacists should be able to tell you if there’s a cheaper way to buy prescription drugs, and yet they are unable to do so. Due to so-called “gag orders,” pharmacists can be prevented from providing this information proactively to patients. With prescription drug costs rising, Americans should have access to transparent pricing information—especially when it can lower their costs.
Today, the Senate takes a significant step toward improving drug price transparency. With the passage of the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act (S.2554), pharmacists would be able to fully inform patients of the cost of the medications they are purchasing. It is ridiculous for a patient to not be told that their copay is actually more than the full cost of the medicine they need. By banning “gag clauses,” this bill ensures that customers have a right to know the lowest possible price available for a drug at the pharmacy. This is an important first step in advancing drug cost transparency.
In addition to price transparency, the actual cost of medicine continues to be a major issue. Pharmaceutical companies often price drugs as high as they believe the market will allow, and have no other constraints on how much they charge. We see this happening not only in branded drugs, but in price spikes among generics as well.
For example, the recent announcement that major hospital systems and philanthropy organizations have banded together to create their own non-profit generic drug manufacturing company, Civica Rx, shows just how concerning the problem of reasonably priced drugs, as well as drug shortages, has become. I’ll watch with great interest as this endeavor moves forward to produce 14 common drugs used by hospitals—with the first due out next year.
The bill we are voting on today solves just one piece of a very large puzzle, and we must do more. In this distinguished body, we should advance legislation that would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices in Medicare. I am a cosponsor of the Choose Medicare Act, which includes this provision. We should also move legislation that provides real financial protection for consumers and limits their monthly copays for prescriptions. I am a cosponsor of the Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act, which includes a copay cap of $250 per month on prescription drugs.
Let’s dig in to the real cost of prescription drugs and look for creative solutions that support innovation but ensure that life-saving drugs can reach patients. A cure doesn’t matter if it costs too much to reach those who need it.
The problem of prescription drug costs is real, and it impacts American families across our country. This problem forces seniors to choose between food and medicine. This problem prevents families from being able to care for their loved ones due to the high cost of expensive drugs.
In fact, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 24 percent of people reported that they or a member of their family either did not fill a prescription, skipped doses, or cut pills in half due to the cost of the drug. And 44 percent of those surveyed said they worried about not being able to afford the medications they needed. This is wrong and it must be fixed.
Today, we start to right that wrong by voting to pass the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act. But more is expected and more must be done. Let’s build on the bipartisan work that helped us pass the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act tonight and make a real difference for American families.”