Negotiation, Safe Importation: Cantwell Joins Sanders, Klobuchar in Introducing Bills to Tackle High Cost of Prescription Drugs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined her Senate colleagues in introducing two pieces of legislation to lower the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs faced by millions of Americans from all walks of life. One bill seeks to empower Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors, and the other would allow Americans to import safe, low-cost medicine from Canada.

“Washingtonians should never have to choose between life-saving medication and other day-to-day necessities,” Senator Cantwell said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in promoting more prescription drug choice and affordability, while establishing new, stringent safety requirements.”

Introduced with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and other senators, 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 seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. Current law bans Medicare from directly negotiating drug prices. By harnessing the bargaining power of the 43 million seniors enrolled in the program, Medicare could negotiate bigger price discounts, resulting in lower drug costs for seniors throughout Washington and around the country.

“You should get a discount when you buy in bulk,” Senator Cantwell said. “This legislation allows Medicare to leverage its purchasing power to lower drug prices for millions of seniors.”

Cantwell also introduced legislation with U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Casey (D-PA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and other senators to allow the safe, lower-cost importation of certain prescription drugs from Canada. The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act would instruct the secretary of Health and Human Services to put forward regulations allowing wholesalers, pharmacies, and individuals to import qualifying prescription drugs from licensed Canadian sellers. The bill also includes detailed provisions requiring safeguards and consumer protections that ensure the safety of imported drugs, including FDA certification of foreign sellers, a clear definition of what drugs may be imported, and supply chain security requirements. It also increases penalties for online pharmacies who illegally sell counterfeit drugs or dispense drugs to people without a valid prescription.

“70 percent of Americans want more access to safe and affordable drugs from Canada,” Senator Cantwell said. “This legislation delivers that access while simultaneously cracking down on the illegal importation of opioids and other illicit drugs.”

In Canada and other economically-developed countries, the same medications are often available for a fraction of the price compared to the United States, despite being manufactured in the same factory by the same company. In 2014, Americans spent on average $1,112 per person on prescription drugs, while Canadians spent $772 and Danes spent $325.