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Bernie Sanders To Propose New Rule Requiring Fair Prices For Taxpayer-Funded Drugs

Sen. Bernie Sanders( I-Vt .) plans to propose a new regulation Monday that would require pharmaceutical companies to charge fair prices for drugs developed with taxpayer-backed research, he told HuffPost.

The rule, introduced as an amendment to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, would force federal agencies and federally funded nonprofits, such as research universities, to secure a reasonable pricing agreement from a manufacturer before granting it exclusive rights to construct drugs, vaccines or other health care products.

The bill is Sanders’ latest attempt to stop the Department of Defense from awarding drugmaker Sanofi Pasteur an exclusive license to produce a Zika vaccine developed over the past year by the U.S. Army. The mosquito-borne virus is sexually transmitted and causes devastating birth defect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 181 cases in U.S. states this year alone, with another 532 reported in U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

” The days of permitting Sanofi and other medication manufacturers to gouge American customers after taking billions in taxpayer fund must end ,” Sanders told HuffPost.” That is why I am introducing legislation to demand fairer, lower costs for the Zika vaccine and for every medication developed with government resources. This is a fight that we cannot afford to lose .”

The Army granted Sanofi $ 43 million to conduct a second phase of trials on the vaccine, and, if successful, promised another $130 million to conduct a third phase.

Yet the French pharmaceutical giant has refused to agree to sell the drug back to taxpayers at a fair cost, despite demanding a patent that would prevent other drugmakers from competing to manufacture the vaccine at a lower cost.( Sanofi denied rejecting the Army’s request in a series of letters to senators this month .)

” That is simply unacceptable ,” Sanders said of the company’s refusal.” Sanofi and the rest of the pharmaceutical industry cannot be allowed to construct huge earnings on the backs of working class Americans, many of whom cannot afford the drug they are prescribed .”

Mario Tama/ Getty Images This photo shows an infant daughter in Brazil born with an undersized skull and under-developed brain due to microcephaly, a rare birth defect caused by the Zika virus.

Sanofi’s history of charging more for its products in the U.S. makes that troubling. The company’s multiple sclerosis medication Aubagio costs eight times more in the U.S . than in France and the United Kingdom, according to Knowledge Ecology International, a Washington-based watchdog group. Diabetic patients sued Sanofi and two other drugmakers in January for jacking up the cost of insulin.

Cash-strapped states most at risk from Zika, including Louisiana, have called on the Army to withheld a patent until Sanofi agrees to affordable pricing, warning that a major outbreak of the virus could cripple their budgets.

Sanofi, meanwhile, raked in $10.2 billion in sales from April through June, according to quarterly earnings announced hours before Sanders introduced his bill. A company spokeswoman reached by HuffPost could not immediately comment on the legislation.

Sanders, who unsuccessfully pushed a similar fair drug pricing bill 20 years ago, has been a vocal opponent of the Army’s arrangement with Sanofi. In March, he thrust the deal into the national spotlight with an op-ed in The New York Times, calling on President Donald Trump to fulfill his pledge to” make merely the best deals on behalf of the American people” by securing cost protections for the Zika vaccine.

The deal has drawn the ire of other lawmakers. On Monday, Rep. Peter DeFazio( D-Ore .) announced companion legislation to Sanders’ bill in the House, his spokeswoman told HuffPost.

Earlier this month, Sen. Angus King( I-Maine) had added language to the defense bill directing the Defense Department to break pricing monopolies when the cost of a taxpayer-funded medication is higher than the median price charged in countries with at least half the per capita income of the U.S. Based on 2016 figures, that would apply to Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada and Australia. The Senate Armed Service Committee unanimously approved the directive.

Last Wednesday, Rep. Marcy Kaptur( D-Ohio) introduced a similar amendment in the Department of Health and Human Service spending bill making its route through the House of Representatives.

Sanofi and the rest of the pharmaceutical industry cannot be allowed to make huge profits on the backs of working class Americans Sen. Bernie Sanders( I-Vt .)

Sanders’ bill faces dim prospects of becoming law. The deep-pocketed pharmaceutical industry has cultivated powerful allies in both parties, despite Democrat’ recently released platform taking aim at medication costs. In January, 13 Democrats joined 39 Republican to vote down a bill designed to lower prescription drug prices. Among them was Sen. Cory Booker( D-N.J .), a rising star in the party with potential 2020 presidential aspirations, who said during an NPR interview last month that he put a “pause” on fundraising from drug companies because” it evokes so much criticism .”

The bill seems unlikely to find supporting in the White House, despite Trump’s campaign trail promises to crack down on medication pricing. Rather than pushing for legislation, the administration is weighing an executive order that would strengthen monopoly rights for pharmaceutical companies overseas, eradicate discounts for low-income hospitals and speed up drug approvals by the Food and Drug Administration, Kaiser Health News reported in June. Bloomberg Gadfly‘s health industry columnist described the order as being” more like a pharma wish list than a menu of onerous demands .”

Plus , no chairman since George H.W. Bush has intervened to lower costs on government-backed medications.

Still, Sanders’ bill defines the stage for a larger debate over medication pricing, especially because it targets federal agencies as well as nonprofits funded by federal grants. If such a law were in place, the government would have more power to govern major new technologies like CRISPR, the gene-engineering technique that, according to reports this month, has been used to edit a human embryo.

“This is a really big deal,” Jamie Love, the director of KEI, told HuffPost on Monday morning.” This means that the public, who pays for the research and development of a number of drugs, vaccines and other medical technologies, will pay lower costs for inventions that they subsidized .”

This article was updated to include DeFazio’s bill.

Read the text of the bill below 😛 TAGEND

Bernie Sanders’ Bill To Require Fair Prices For Taxpayer-Funded Drugs on Scribd

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