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COLUMBUS, OH – As more companies buy the rights to old, existing drugs then raise prices overnight, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) unveiled a plan to save taxpayer dollars and lower costs for seniors. Prescription drug spending increased 13 percent last year overall – the largest annual increase since 2003.

“Seniors on Medicare face skyrocketing bills for lifesaving drugs that they can’t afford and some insurance companies have stopped covering their drugs altogether,” Brown said. “This isn’t right, and it must stop. That’s why I helped introduce the Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act. Giving Medicare the authority to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies will help seniors get the best prices for these critical prescription drugs. Seniors should be able to get drug coverage directly through Medicare – not be forced to buy from a middle man.”

During a press conference at Mount Carmel today, Brown was joined by Lois Fankhauser, a Franklin County senior who is struggling with the increasing cost of prescription drugs, and Dr. Richard Streck, Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Operations Officer at Mount Carmel, who discussed how Brown’s legislation would help keep costs under control.

“In the last year, we have seen several dramatic increases in the price of drugs that we prescribe to our patients, including many emergency drugs as well as pain and heart medications. This is significantly impacting our ability to provide the services our patients need and more importantly placing a huge financial burden on families in central Ohio,” said Dr. Streck. “I want to thank Sen. Brown for his efforts on this important issue.”

A recent report from the New York Times found that Valeant Pharmaceuticals raised the cost of Cuprimine, a life-saving drug, more than four-fold. Cuprimine, which just a few months ago cost Medicare beneficiaries about $366 per month, now costs them $1,800 per month, and taxpayer-funded Medicare now pays about $35,000 per month per patient. Earlier this week, federal prosecutors opened an investigation into Valeant’s drug pricing and distribution.

Brown outlined legislation to help rein in costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate the best prescription medication prices, lowering drug prices for seniors enrolled in Medicare prescription drug coverage. The Medicare Prescription Drug Savings and Choice Act would help keep costs down for Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D by requiring the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate the best prescription medication prices for seniors.

Current law only allows for bargaining by pharmaceutical companies and bans Medicare from doing so. The bill would require the HHS Secretary to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, eliminating the “non-interference” clause that expressly bans Medicare from negotiating for the best possible prices even though the government can often negotiate bigger discounts than private insurance companies.

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