The prices of prescription drugs are out of control in America, and the biggest obstacle to reducing the prices people pay for needed medication is Big Pharma’s influence over lawmakers. Anyone who doubts this is occurring only needs to take a look at what happened last week when Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) attempted to force a vote on a bill that would slash prescription drug prices.

Sanders attempted to force a vote on The Cutting Medicare Prescription Drug Prices in Half Act, a move that is desperately needed by many chronically ill Americans as the pharmaceutical industry rushes to raise costs on already-expensive medications as the new year gets underway.

As the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders sought unanimous consent to move forward with the debate and to vote on the important measure, which he had introduced earlier in the week with Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. The bill would bring the prices of medications covered by Medicare in line with the prices paid by the Federal Supply Schedule and the Department of Veterans Affairs for the same drugs.

This could lead to cost savings of around half, as a 2017 Government Accountability Office study shows that the VA pays an average of 54 percent less per unit that Medicare does for hundreds of generic and brand-name medications.

In a floor speech, Sanders said that the pharmaceutical industry has been regulating Congress for far too long rather than the other way around.

He added: “All over this country, the American people are asking a simple question: How many people need to die, how many people need to get unnecessarily sicker, before Congress is prepared to take on the greed of the prescription drug industry?

“Enough is enough. A lifesaving prescription drug does not mean anything if you cannot afford to buy that drug.”

He went on to say that it is time to stop the pharmaceutical industry from charging Americans the highest prices in the world for prescription medications. Voters often cite legislation against rising drug prices as one of their top priorities, and Sanders is warning that Democrats could fare very poorly in the upcoming midterm elections if they do not take action on the matter.

Sen. Mike Crapo received hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical industry

However, Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho objected to Sanders’ request to advance this important legislation. He claimed that he was opposed to the move because he felt it would bring in more bureaucracy, but it is widely believed that it is his connection to pharmaceutical companies that was really behind the objection.

Crapo is a major recipient of donations from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries – receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical PACs – and it’s not surprising that he is also the lead sponsor of a different bill that is far friendlier to the industry known as the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, which pushes for a “market-based approach” to setting drug prices.

An analysis that was released last week by Patients for Affordable Drugs showed that pharmaceutical companies have already hiked the prices of 742 drugs this year, and many of them did so at a rate that outpaces inflation.

The group wrote: “Of the 742 drugs that the industry raised prices on, 92% were on brand-name drugs, one in four exceeded the most recent rate of inflation available in early January, and 93% exceeded the projected inflation rate for 2023, 2.3%.”

A study from the Urban Institute found that 13 million American adults saw delays in receiving needed prescription drugs or had to forego them altogether in 2021 due to their high costs.

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