News Release — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Oct. 9, 2014
BURLINGTON – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today raised new
questions about skyrocketing prices for prescription drugs, including a
new treatment for Hepatitis C that costs more than $1,000 per pill, and
what he calls “staggering” price hikes for generic drugs.
Sanders’ focus on the Hepatitis C medication stems from his
chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, which
recently learned that the costly new treatment is projected to cost the
Department of Veterans Affairs $1.3 billion over the next two years.
The VA treats roughly 174,000 veterans with Hepatitis C and the drug
requires a 12-week course of treatment for most patients. The impact on
the VA budget is significant, even though the large health care system
receives a discount on Sovaldi from Gilead.
“My goal as chairman is to help VA provide the best quality care to
our veterans. But when VA has to spend an enormous amount of money on
prescription drugs – money that has not been budgeted for – other
important services are put at risk,” said Sanders. “This is an issue
that has to be explored because when we put money into the VA we want to
make sure it goes toward making sure veterans get the best care
possible, not to pad the profit margins of large pharmaceutical
Sanders is also working with Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) to
investigate the soaring cost of generic drugs. One drug, Albuterol
Sulfate which is used to treat asthma, went from $11 last October to
$434 recently for a bottle of 100 pills. An antibiotic, Doxycycline
Hyclate, cost $20 last year for a bottle of 500 tablets. By April, the
price was $1,849.
In letters asking 14 pharmaceutical companies for explanations, Cummings
and Sanders cited a survey that found pharmacists across the country
“have seen huge upswings in generic drug prices that are hurting
patients” and having a “very significant” impact on pharmacists’ ability
to continue serving patients.
Sanders has asked Vermonters to tell his office about their own
experiences with generic drug prices. One man in Montpelier wrote, “I
went to the pharmacy to refill a prescription. The drug was Plaquenil,
available in a generic. Last month I paid $8.60, today the same drug
cost me $88.50. The drug companies are reaping off the American public.
The pharmacist said it was due to the Affordable Care Act. I think that
is BUNK! It is nothing more than greed.”
To let the senator know about your experiences with drug prices, click here.
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