Congressman Mark Pocan

Representing the 2nd District of Wisconsin
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Rep. Pocan Urges President Obama to Take Executive Action to Lower Prescription Drug Prices

Oct 12, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) along with 33 House Democrats, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to take executive action to reign in the dramatic increase in costs for prescription medications. In the letter, the members note that since 2011, prices for four of the nation’s top 10 drugs rose more than 100 percent and the cost of the other six most commonly used prescription medications went up more than 50 percent. These price hikes are restricting and preventing Americans’ access to critical drugs.

“Americans deserve reliable access to safe and affordable prescription drugs. While drug company profits continue to increase at a faster pace than any other sector of the health care industry, too many working families are being squeezed by skyrocketing drug prices,” Rep. Pocan said. “The President should use his executive authority to end pharmaceutical companies’ monopoly on drug pricing and ensure that Americans don’t have to worry about how they will pay for lifesaving prescriptions.”

"Drug prices are too high, forcing millions of Americans to choose between their financial health and their physical health. But, as Rep. Pocan and the signers of his letter point out, President Obama can take executive action to lower drug prices,” said Alex Lawson, Executive Director, Social Security Works. “We urge him to do so immediately."

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that almost 75% of Americans believe drug costs are unreasonable and a majority of Americans (including Republicans) support a variety of government actions to limit pharmaceutical companies increasing drug prices to benefit their own bottom line.

The letter was signed by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Sam Farr (D-CA), Gwen S. Moore (D-WI), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Earl Blumenauer (D- OR), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Donna Edwards (D-MD), Emanuel Cleaver(D-MO), Peter Welch (D-VT), Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), John Garamendi (D-CA), and Don Beyer (D-VA). 

The letter is also endorsed by Social Security Works, CREDO Action, People Demanding Action, the Other 98%, Courage Campaign, Progressive Congress, Blue America, Public Citizen, Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), Daily Kos, Public Leadership Institute, People’s Action, Democracy for America, the Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, Communication Workers of America (CWA), National Physicians Alliance, Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network, MoveOn, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). 

The text of the letter is below and a signed copy can be found here.

Dear President Obama:

We write to express our concern regarding the dramatic increase in costs for prescription medications and commend your continued commitment to decreasing the costs of health care without reducing quality for millions of Americans. In fact, the Affordable Care Act has reduced the rate of uninsured Americans to below 9 percent, the lowest rate on record. However, the federal government has yet to seriously address the alarming rise in the price of prescription drugs, which makes up nearly 20 percent of total health care costs in the United States. We urge your administration to use executive action and take concrete steps now to enable more Americans have access to affordable prescription drugs.

In the past five years, patients have seen multiple pharmaceutical corporations participate in the cruel practice of price gouging: preventing Americans from accessing lifesaving drugs in order to maximize their profits.  Recently, Gilead Sciences set a price of $84,000 for Solvaldi, their 12-week Hepatitis C treatment, restricting patient access to the life-changing drug in order to maximize their profits. Additionally, Turing Pharmaceuticals, which purchased Daraprim, a drug used to treat a rare disease and AIDS patients, drastically hiked the price by 5,000 percent from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Unfortunately, Turing is not alone. Pharmaceutical corporations are buying rights to older drugs with limited competition in the market and then quickly increasing prices several times over a short period of time. The most recent example of the pharmaceutical industries’ price-gouging and anti-competitive behavior is Mylan Pharmaceuticals. Mylan increased the price of the EpiPen, an auto-injector of epinephrine for patients with severe allergies who are at-risk of anaphylaxis, by over 480 percent in the United States over 5 years. This practice has restricted families’ and emergency medical providers’ access to this lifesaving product.

Unfortunately, the tactics used by pharmaceutical companies have an outsized impact on low- and middle-income families and seniors. We have all heard too many stories from our constituents about families who are forced to choose between buying groceries, paying their mortgage or getting medication their child desperately needs.

Since 2011, prices for four of the nation’s top 10 drugs rose more than 100 percent and the other six went up more than 50 percent. Pharmaceutical companies are restricting, or even worse, preventing Americans’ access to critical drugs for the sake of their own profits. As Congress pursues multiple legislative strategies aimed at ending the pharmaceutical price gouging behavior, we also urge you engage in efforts to address this through executive action. With continued Republican obstruction of necessary legislation, we need your leadership to prevent harm to millions of families hurt by soaring prices for the medicines they need.

We believe your Administration should issue fair and transparent guidelines to ensure the public has access to lifesaving drugs developed using federally funded research. Specifically, you should instruct the Director of the National Institutes of Health to ensure that drugs researched and developed with taxpayer funds are kept accessible to the public by authorizing new competition for unaffordable, monopoly-priced medications—an existing statutory power granted by the Bayh-Dole Act (Pub. L. 96-517). This is an important step in deterring corporations from holding federally funded patented drugs from setting unreasonable prices.

Moreover, we also encourage your administration to explore implementing drug importation rules that are already part of U.S. law. Under authority from the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, the Secretary of Health and Human Services can certify the importation of prescription drugs from other countries under specific qualifications. This regulatory action would pose no risk to public health and safety and could result in a significant reduction in the cost of prescription drugs to American families.

We believe your administration also has the authority to address issues within the Federal Trade Commission to more effectively combat monopolies held by pharmaceutical companies and the use of patent settlements to block all other generic drug competition for a growing number of branded drugs, also known as “pay-for-delay.” We are deeply concerned that pharmaceutical companies will continue this unethical and unlawful practice until necessary reforms are developed and implemented.

In any given month, about half of all Americans and 90 percent of seniors take a prescription drug. We strongly encourage you to consider these executive actions to stop the rapid increase in drug prices and ensure affordable consumer access to medication.

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