Sen. Brown to go after pharmaceutical companies for ‘price gouging’

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will introduce a bill that will penalize pharmaceutical companies for “price gouging” for prescription drugs, he announced during a Wednesday telephone news conference.

Brown pointed to large price increases in the EpiPen for allergic reactions and insulin for diabetes as examples of what he said are companies raising prices for no reason other than to boost profits.

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Brown was joined by Beth Borgemake of Mason, who talked about the dramatic rise in the insulin she takes for the diabetes she’s had for 26 years.

Borgemenke said her insulin cost $20 a vial when she was first diagnosed and now costs $173.

“I really appreciate the legislation that Sen. Brown is introducing,” Borgemenke said.

Brown’s bill, dubbed the Stop Price Gouging Act, will be cosponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY.

“If you hike prices for no reason at all, doubling or tripling…that’s price gouging,” Brown said.

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The bill would require drug companies to report and justify price increases and penalize those “that engage in unjustified price increases with financial penalties proportionate to the price spike,” according to a news release issued by Brown’s office.

He said money collected from the penalties would be invested in drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health.

“We can’t comment until we see the actual legislation and have a chance to review it,” said Nicole Longo, spokeswoman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Brown said his new bill is part of a larger effort to drive down the cost of prescription drugs. He said some have called his plan “every policy idea drug lobbyists hate.” That effort includes trying to improve access to “biosimilar” drugs, boosting competition and making them more affordable, according to the release.

Brown said he also believes Congress should overturn it’s ban on the federal government negotiating drug prices for Medicare and begin saving money for the government and consumers, following the model used at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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He acknowledged that his ideas might not find favor in the current Congress, where Republican majorities are in place in both the Senate and House.

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