How Candidates Would Handle Escalating Prescription Drug Costs

February 7, 2016
The Medical Society queried all presidential candidates on four issues impacting Granite Staters' health and wellbeing. The following are answers from candidates who who responded and were still actively in the race at the time of this posting. NHMS encourages all physicians, PAs and students to review their responses and take the Bartlett Jacket Flip Challenge.
Many physicians are concerned about the rapidly escalating cost of prescription drugs. What would you do as President to help address this predicament?
Chris Christie- "Kathie Obradovich: "Do you agree with Hillary Clinton Medicare should be able to negotiate prescription drug prices under - right now you can't, the federal government can't negotiate prescription drug prices under Medicare."
Chris Christie: "I think what Mrs. Clinton is really going for is for price controls, which I don't agree with. We want our pharmaceutical companies to continue to invest in research and development, which is extraordinarily expensive - tens of billions of dollars. They need to be able to make that money back to invest. Because if they don't, we're not going to get the next cures, the next treatments that we need."
Kathie Obradovich: "So, she's going to far by saying marketing money should be moved into research and development?"
Chris Christie: "Hillary Clinton not only wants to be president of the United States, but she wants to be CEO of every pharmaceutical company. She's an extraordinary woman. But, I don't think she can do all that at one. She should let those CEOs and the shareholders, by the way, which help make those decisions - make those decisions, not have the government. This is the difference between me and Hillary Clinton. She wants the government to make every decision - that's a perfect example of it. I believe the American people should make those decisions and government should stay out of the way."
Jeb Bush - "We need to address the underlying problems causing prices to skyrocket. It should not cost $1.2 billion to $2.6 billion nor take 12 to 15 years to advance a medicine from discovery to patients, but that is the case under the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) current regulatory mess. I have proposed a plan to modernize the FDA to reduce approval times and the cost to develop prescription drugs. In addition, consumers deserve better transparency about the value of their care, including their prescription drugs. I have proposed transparency standards so that consumers have access to key information on price, outcomes and performance. The solution to skyrocketed drug costs must put patients at the center -they deserve more innovative treatments, better value for health care dollars, and more transparency on what will work for them."
Bernie Sanders- "Access to health care is a human right, and that includes access to safe and affordable prescription drugs. It is time to enact prescription drug policies that work for everyone, not just the CEOs of the pharmaceutical industry, and it is time we end the national disgrace of the United States being the only major country that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.
I have proposed a Medicare-for-All health care system that expands the list of minimum health benefits currently guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act and would fully cover expenses for prescription drugs, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. My plan would allow states to innovate while holding everyone to a high standard.
In addition, Americans pay, by far, the highest prices for prescription drugs in the entire world. When we talk about health care, we are talking about the need of the American people to be able to afford the medicine their health care providers prescribe. A life-saving drug does no good if the people who need it cannot afford that drug.
I recently introduced the Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015 that, among other things, instructs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to bring down prescription drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. We must use our buying power to get better deals for the American people, just like other countries throughout the world do. Not only would negotiation substantially reduce prices seniors and people with disabilities pay for drugs, it could save Medicare up to $541 billion dollars over the next decade, according to a study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
I also believe that we must allow individuals, pharmacists and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from licensed Canadian pharmacies. In 1999, I became the first Member of Congress to take a busload of Americans across the border into Canada to purchase prescription drugs. Americans should not have to pay higher prices for the exact same drugs than our Canadian neighbors simply because Congress is bought and paid for by the powerful pharmaceutical industry.
My legislation would also close the Medicare Part D donut hole for brand and generic drugs by 2017 (three years earlier than under current law), hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable when they defraud the American people by enacting stronger penalties for fraud, and require drug companies to publicly report information that affects drug pricing. Companies routinely distort the true cost of drug research and development to justify skyrocketing prescription drug prices. Under my plan, drug makers would be required to report certain price expenditures on research and development and clinical trials, as well as the portion of their drug development expenses offset by tax credits or paid for by federal grants.
Most Americans - Republicans, Democrats, and independents - want Congress to do something about drug prices, and in fact there are steps the Administration can take on this issue to lower drug prices that do not require Congressional action. Tens of thousands of Americans now spend more than $100,000 a year on prescription medications. Drug costs are out of control because that's the way pharmaceutical companies want it. As President, I will work hard to take on the pharmaceutical industry and address skyrocketing drug prices."
Hillary Clinton- "We must promote competition and leverage our nation's bargaining power to lower drug costs on behalf of Americans. That's why I have laid out a plan to hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable and rein in drug costs for American families. My plan demands a stop to excessive profiteering and marketing by denying tax breaks for direct-to-consumer advertising and demanding that drug companies invest in R&D in exchange for taxpayer support - rather than marketing or excessive profits. I will encourage competition to get more generics on the market and create a Federal backstop for when there are excessively high-priced drugs that face no competition. And for Americans struggling with prescription drug cost burdens, I will cap what insurers can charge consumers in out-of-pocket costs, putting money back in the family wallet.
This isn't a new fight for me. I've fought the special interests to get affordable health care throughout my career. As a senator, I called for allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to reduce prices and rein in costs. And I will continue this fight as president."