In an effort to prevent large pharmaceutical companies from “gouging American consumers after taking billions in taxpayer money,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a new rule on Monday that would require pharmaceutical companies to agree to set reasonable prices before being granted exclusive rights to produce vaccines and other life-saving drugs.
Sanders was joined by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and twenty-one co-sponsors in supporting a rule “first proposed two decades ago with bipartisan support.”
Sanders specifically targeted Sanofi, a French drug giant that the US Army has offered an exclusive license to develop a vaccine for the Zika virus:
American taxpayers have already spent more than $1 billion on Zika research and prevention efforts, including millions to develop a vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services gave Sanofi $43 million to develop the vaccine with $130 million in federal funding still to come. But Sanofi has refused to agree to sell the drug back to Americans at a fair price. Without a fair pricing agreement, the company can charge Americans whatever astronomical price it wants for its vaccine.
Sanders, who spent much of his 2016 presidential campaign railing against the greed of the pharmaceutical industry, called the deal “simply unacceptable”:
Americans should not be forced to pay the highest prices in the world for a vaccine we spent more than $1 billion to help develop. Sanofi gets more than one-third of its roughly $34 billion in revenues from the United States alone, and its CEO made nearly $5 million in salary last year. Yet they have rejected the US Army’s request for fair pricing.
Sanofi and the rest of the pharmaceutical industry cannot be allowed to make huge profits on the backs of working class Americans, many of whom cannot afford the medication they are prescribed. The days of allowing Sanofi and other drug makers to gouge American consumers after taking billions in taxpayer money must end. That is why I am introducing legislation to demand fairer, lower prices for the Zika vaccine and for every drug developed with government resources. This is a fight that we cannot afford to lose.
The Congressional Budget Office found that the rule would save the federal government $6 billion over the next decade. The US spends far more on pharmaceutical drugs—and on healthcare in general—than other industrialized nations.
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