WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the Pelosi prescription drug bill, Democrats’ latest installment in their campaign to have the government takeover Americans’ health care. If passed, the bill would reduce Americans’ access to lifesaving treatments. Thune encouraged Congress to find a solution to lower prescription drug costs without resorting to government price controls and cited bipartisan proposals that could be passed through both chambers of Congress.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, over in the House this week, Democrats are taking up the latest installment in their campaign to have the government take over Americans’ health care: the Pelosi prescription drug bill.
“Now, Mr. President, there’s no question that high prescription drug costs are a problem.
“One in four seniors reports difficulty affording medications, and there are too many stories of patients being forced to ration pills or abandon their prescription at the pharmacy counter.
“But the Pelosi drug bill is the wrong prescription for the problem of high drug prices.
“Because it would reduce Americans’ access to lifesaving treatments and discourage investment in prescription drug research.
“Mr. President, between 2011 and 2018, more than 250 new medications were introduced worldwide.
“American patients have access to nearly all of them.
“But that’s not the situation for patients in a lot of other countries.
“The Chamber of Commerce reports that patients in France have access to just 50 percent of those new drugs.
“French patients, in other words, are missing out on fully half of the new drugs that have been introduced in the past eight years.
“So why do Americans have such tremendous access to new drugs, while other countries trail behind?
“Because the U.S. government doesn’t dictate drug prices or drug coverage.
“As statistic after statistic demonstrates, when governments start imposing price controls, patients’ access to new drugs and treatments diminishes.
“Government price controls also discourage the medical research and innovation that produces the prescription-drug breakthroughs of the future.
“The U.S. leads the world in prescription drug innovation, and a big reason for that is because the U.S. government doesn’t dictate drug prices.
“It wasn’t always this way.
“European investment in drug research used to exceed U.S. investment.
“But that changed when European governments stepped in and started imposing price controls.
“Today, European investment in drug research and development is almost 40 percent lower than U.S. investment, in large part because of European governments’ price controls.
“No other country comes close to achieving the number of prescription drug breakthroughs that companies in the U.S. achieve.
“That situation is not going to last, however, if the Democrat Party has its way.
“The Pelosi drug bill would impose a system of government price controls on up to 250 medications.
“And reduced access to drugs and fewer medical breakthroughs would soon follow.
“The California Life Sciences Association released a statement noting that the Pelosi drug bill could result in, and I quote, “an 88% reduction in the number of drugs that are brought to market by small/emerging companies in California.”
“‘Such a dramatic decline,’ the association notes, ‘would be felt most in the higher risk/smaller population therapeutic areas of R&D, including new drugs for endocrine, metabolic, genetic and rare diseases, and pediatric cancers.’
“In other words, fewer medical breakthroughs for those who need them the most.
“Mr. President, as I said earlier, the high cost of some prescription drugs can be a real problem for many families.
“But the answer is not to introduce a government-run pricing system that would mean that important prescription drugs would not be there when you – or your child – need them.
“There are a lot of things we can do to lower the cost of prescription drugs without resorting to government price controls.
“Multiple Senate committees have been actively engaged on this topic.
“There are options for how to improve transparency in a complicated and often opaque drug pricing process.
“There are ideas to examine competition and consolidation in the pharmaceutical supply chain.
“To ensure generic companies can access the samples they need to develop a new generic or biosimiliar.
“To prevent companies from engaging in patent thicketing to block competition.
“To promote real-time benefit tools to help inform consumers of cheaper drug options.
“To advance value-based insurance design to support coverage of high-value items and services, like medicines, that people with chronic conditions need to manage their health.
“And to modernize the Medicare Part D plan design and cap seniors’ out-of-pocket costs.
“Republicans in the House recently introduced legislation on prescription drug costs that both promotes innovation and contains bipartisan ideas for reform, including increased transparency in drug pricing and provisions to prevent drug companies from gaming the system.
“This bill includes several ideas passed by the Senate Finance Committee, while focusing on policies that can be passed through both chambers of Congress.
“Importantly, it eliminates those policies that divided us.
“There are bipartisan solutions on the table.
“It’s unfortunate that House Democrats have abandoned bipartisan efforts on drug pricing and have decided to pursue their government-run alternative.
“Mr. President, it boils down to this: Government price controls mean access to fewer drugs.
“And access to fewer drugs means that when you, or your child, or your mom or your dad needs a lifesaving medication, that drug may be out there, but it may not be there for you.
“And that’s not acceptable.
“The Pelosi drug bill is a bad prescription for the American people.”