Bernie Sanders and Prescription Drugs

Read the following which is an excerpt from a Bernie Sanders press release. At first glance it appears like a great idea. Who can be against lower drug prices?

The simplistic approach of Sanders is typical politics. The high price of drugs is complex and not simply a reflection of profits which are a combination of price and volume of sales. Hence the high volume of prescription advertising.

20140205-063200.jpgDrug prices are lower outside the US in part because outside the US they fix drug prices and they are more selective on what drugs will be paid for. Americans want the best and latest and greatest and lots of it. Americans are subsidizing a lot of the research and development enjoyed by the rest of the world. Part of the problem is the long approval process for a drug through the FDA where it can take twice as long as in Europe. Check out this comparison of processes. 

Medicare negotiates drug prices for its population using the most drugs, Medicare spending goes down … and everyone else’s costs go up. In theory at least virtually all Americans are protected by health insurance which includes prescription drugs so out-of-pocket costs are limited.  Even Medicare limits out-of-pocket costs in a year to about $4700 for all but the very few extremely high utilizers.

Yes, we need to look at many aspects of our use, cost, payment and approval and marketing of prescription drugs. However, waiving the magic liberal regulatory wand doesn’t help and as usual these champions of truth, justice and the American way fail to consider the unintended consequences.

By the way Old Bernie, what other countries do is not automatically what is right for America.

In some ways this reminds me of people who complain about their high electric bills blaming the electric company and ignoring all the devises consuming electricity in their home.

Bernie Sanders- In light of 1,000 percent price increases – and more – American families are fed up with trying to afford their medications as they watch drug companies rake in record profits,” Ranking Member Cummings said. “This commonsense and comprehensive bill will reverse this alarming trend, help put people before profits, and make lifesaving drugs more affordable and accessible to millions of Americans families.”

The Prescription Drug Affordability Act of 2015 authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to bring down costs for Medicare drug benefits. The bill also includes tougher penalties for drug companies that commit fraud and bans the practice of brand name drugmakers paying competitors to keep lower-priced generic substitutes off the market. The bill also lowers barriers to the importation of lower-cost drugs from Canada.

“We should use our buying power to get better deals for the American people. Other countries do it and so should we,” Sanders said.

And in the final analysis we have this. What do you think is going to happen to drug utilization (and spending) when these findings become widely accepted and implemented?  Even given that many generics are available for blood pressure, consider the opportunity for new drugs. Think beyond the rhetoric. Also, does spending on prescription drugs avoid even higher spending on the conditions they treat? Does anyone really know?

In a find­ing that may up-end con­ven­tional wis­dom about treat­ing hyper­tension, sci­en­tists with the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health said that ag­gressive re­duc­tion of blood pres­sure to lev­els un­der cur­rent tar­gets can sig­nif­icantly re­duce rates of cardio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and death in hypertension patients.

Us­ing med­ica­tion to lower sys­tolic blood pressure to less than 120 reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke by al­most a third, and death by almost a quar­ter, com­pared with low­er­ing it to a commonly rec­om­mended target of less than 140, the Na­tional Heart, Lung, and Blood In­sti­tute said Fri­day.

The group aim­ing for sys­tolic pres­sure of less than 140 received an av­erage of two dif­fer­ent blood pres­sure medications­. The more aggressive, 120 tar­get group received an av­er­age of three medications.

Excerpt WSJ article 9-12-15


6 replies »

  1. 652 likes to THREE dislikes. I hope your readers take a listen. Bernie stated nothing but fact when he introduced the bill. The top three drug companies made 45 billion dollars in profits in one year while ONE IN FIVE AMERICANS, including Veterans, cannot fill the prescriptions they need. That 45 billion is AFTER the cost of research and development. You seem to think that there is no problem when sick Egyptians come before sick American Veterans. What Bernie is talking about is adequate coverage. No doubt profits will go down, but that is why they negotiate the costs. You cannot refute the facts – so you make up hypotheticals. Ignorance or deliberate, I hope you realize the swill you sell kills REAL Americans, not hypothetical ones.The American people are sick of scare tactics while corporations continue to earn billions, fund Wall Street shenanigans, thousands of paid lobbyists, where nearly all is funneled to billionaire stockholders.


      • Because there is no point. Unless it is something like this “I don’t know how to attack Bernie’s bill, so how about I say it is complex and change is bad”

        Go watch the video and let’s discuss it point by point. I love to hear any criticism you might have on it.


      • The criticism and reasons for it are clearly explained in the post as is the fact that I agree something must be done, but merely negotiating or fixing prices for Medicare does not fix the much larger problem which I also explained. It’s like you saw the words Bernie Sanders and stopped reading the content.


      • You should also understand what other countries do in addition to fixing prices, they also limit the drugs their system will pay for.


      • Ok we will just fix prices and then let the government decide which drugs will be paid for or not. People who lap up Sanders simple solutions without considering the consequences deserve what they get. Old Bernie can’t even take care of his own finances let alone the Country’s


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