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January 11, 2019

King Backs Three Bills to Provide Prescription Drug Price Relief for Maine People

The bills would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors, permit importation of prescription medications from Canada and other major countries, and eliminate tax-breaks encouraging pharmaceutical companies to advertise to consumers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced his support for three bills that would reduce the cost of prescription drugs. The first bill, the End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act, would prohibit pharmaceutical drug manufacturers from claiming tax deductions for consumer advertising expenses, and the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries. The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act would allow for Medicare to negotiate the best possible price of prescription drugs to cut costs for nearly 43 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and prohibits Medicare from doing so. Senator King was a cosponsor of all three bills during the 115th Congress.

“As the cost of prescription drugs in this country continues to rise, more and more Maine people are being forced to make unthinkable decisions,” said Senator King. “No one should have to choose between taking a prescribed medicine or putting food on the table. It doesn’t have to be this way – we pay far more for these drugs than our neighbors, prevent Medicare from seeking better prices for beneficiaries, but still grant generous tax breaks to pharmaceutical companies so they can advertise directly to consumers. By passing commonsense legislation to allow consumers and Medicare to seek out better deals, while also removing unneeded tax breaks from drug companies, we can provide real relief for Maine people and help our population stay healthy.”

The United States is one of only two countries that allows “direct-to-consumer” pharmaceutical advertising, and advertising expenses by pharmaceutical drug manufacturers have more than quadrupled over the past two decades, rising from $1.3 billion in 1997 to $6 billion in 2016. In that same time period, advertising from drug companies has increased from 79,000 ads to 4.6 million ads, including 663,000 TV commercials. Economists have estimated that nearly one third of the growth in drug companies’ spending can be attributed to the increase in advertising for prescription drugs. Under current law, drug manufacturers are allowed to deduct the cost of advertising expenses from federal taxes. This aggressive advertising also increases demand and allows drug companies to increase prices. The End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act, would eliminate this tax deduction for drug advertising costs, ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize drug advertisements.

Meanwhile, in Canada and other major countries, the same medications – manufactured by the same companies in the same factories – are available for a fraction of the price compared to the United States. In 2017, Americans spent $1,208 per person on prescription drugs while Canadians spent $860 and people in the U.K. spent $476. 

Senator King has supported commonsense legislation to drive down the costs of medication in the United States. In the May 2018 edition of his monthly Inside Maine podcast, Senator King discussed programs to help Maine people save money on medications with Sarah Jones, the Program Coordinator of MedAccess and Trish Riley, Executive Director of the National Academy for State Health Policy. In March 2018, he discussed his legislative efforts to reduce drug prices at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Augusta, highlighting his cosponsorship of both the Drug-Price Transparency in Communications Act, which requires the cost of medications to be disclosed to both consumers and prescribers, and the Creating and Restoring Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act, which seeks to increase access to generic medications. During the health care debate in July 2017, Senator King outlined a roadmap of priorities to stabilize the marketplace and lower the costs of treatment and coverage for people across the country. Senator King also supports the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act, legislation that would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare.

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