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Gillibrand Calls For Legislation To Help Reduce The Cost Of Prescription Drugs

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York and a member of the Senate Aging Committee, stood at the Health Association of Niagara County Inc. (HANCI) in Niagara Falls recently to call for a package of three bills to help reduce the cost of prescription drugs, and help ensure that everyone can access the medicine they need.

Over the years, prescription drug costs have become increasingly unaffordable, particularly for older Americans — who account for one in four Niagara County residents — who rely on Medicare yet still struggle to afford medications on a fixed income. Additionally, many people with disabilities rely on drug therapies to manage chronic conditions but have been overwhelmed by increasing prices. Drug manufacturers continue to increase the price of their drugs despite one in four Americans unable to afford their medications. Nearly a third of adults say they have not taken their medicine as prescribed in the past 12 months due to costs. Senator Gillibrand’s call comes as Senate and House Democrats ramp up pressure to pass legislation to make health care and prescription drugs more affordable for Americans as the economy recovers.

“As New Yorkers face growing health challenges and economic hardship in the wake of the pandemic, they are being forced to make decisions between picking up their drugs and buying groceries or keeping the lights on. It is unacceptable that many people have had to skip or ration the medications they need to stay healthy, while the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country are making tens of billions of dollars in profits,” Gillibrand said. “As a member of the Aging Committee, reducing prescription drug prices for our seniors is one of my top priorities. Congress must take immediate action to ensure Americans can afford the medications they need and I will be fighting alongside my colleagues to get these provisions passed.”

The package of legislation includes:

¯ The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act. The bill would level the market for Americans purchasing prescription drugs by pegging the price in the United States to the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan;

¯ The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act. The bill would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.

¯ The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act. The bill would allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.

Under current law, the federal Health and Human Services secretary is prohibited from negotiating lower drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. In contrast, other government programs, like Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are allowed to negotiate. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, Medicare paid twice as much for the same prescription drugs as VA in 2017.

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