Bernie Sanders takes on pharma industry "greed" with major new report

Washington DC - Independent Senator Bernie Sanders released a report on Monday exposing the "greed" of the US pharmaceutical industry.

Senator Bernie Sanders and his staff have released a new report tracking the high prices consumers must pay for medical drugs developed with public funding.
Senator Bernie Sanders and his staff have released a new report tracking the high prices consumers must pay for medical drugs developed with public funding.  © Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

In the report, Sanders' staff documented the price of medical treatments developed with the help of National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientists, whose work is publicly funded.

Over the last 20 years, Sanders' office found that the average median price of new treatments that NIH scientists helped invent came out to $111,000. Meanwhile, US taxpayers have to dish out far more than consumers in other countries to access those treatments.

The report notes that the US federal government has the power to require pharma companies to set reasonable prices for new drugs. For example, after a one company tried to set the price of an AIDS drug created with the help of NIH scientists at $10,000 per year, the agency in 1989 started including a "reasonable pricing clause" into contracts around treatments developed with taxpayer funds. The clause was withdrawn six years later due to industry pressure, according to the report.

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"The average price of new treatments that NIH scientists helped invent over the past 20 years is now more than 10 times the price that led NIH to first introduce a reasonable pricing clause in 1989," the document states.

"The federal government should reinstate and strengthen a 'reasonable pricing clause' in all future collaboration, funding, and licensing agreements for medical research."

Bernie Sanders demands federal action to reduce drug prices

Sanders called on the Biden administration to take executive action to lower the price of prescription drugs.
Sanders called on the Biden administration to take executive action to lower the price of prescription drugs.  © ALEX WONG / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

As many Americans struggle to access the health care they need due to astronomical prices, pharma companies and executives are making record profits.

In 2022, 10 top pharmaceutical companies made over $112 billion in profits. Fifty executives in those companies took home more than $1.5 billion in addition to stock awards, the report says.

But none of that would be possible without federal government funding to research, develop, test, approve, and manufacture many new drugs, Sanders and his team argue.

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The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee chair has long been a champion of tackling corporate greed in the pharmaceutical and health care industries. Last month, he reintroduced Medicare For All legislation to create a single-payer health insurance system.

"Now is the time for the Biden Administration to take executive action to substantially lower the price of prescription drugs and to take on the corporate greed of the pharmaceutical industry," Sanders tweeted on Monday along with the report's release.

Cover photo: Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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