By Jeff Merkley

Oregonians coming to my town halls keep telling me how badly they’re getting ripped off by pharmaceutical companies.

Leslie told me the medication his daughter needs to treat deadly seizures costs $45,000 per vial, when it only costs $200 in Canada.

Stephen told me that his wife’s insulin costs $465 per refill, when it costs just $62.50 in Canada.

Dulanda, a senior citizen, told me that she’s increasingly concerned about how much of her limited income is being eaten up by health care costs — even as she’s read about how much more affordable her medications are in other countries.

That is outrageous. If $200 or $62.50 or any lower price is a sufficient price to pay in Canada, then those lower prices are sufficient in America.

And this is not just an Oregon problem.

Not only do 6 in 10 Americans report taking at least one prescription medicine, but 80 percent of them say that the cost of their prescription drugs is unreasonable.

Nearly a quarter of Americans taking prescription medications say the high cost of refills has stopped them or a family member from filling a prescription, or has led them to cut pills in half or skip doses altogether.

And prices keep increasing: From January to July of 2018, there were price increases on 4,412 drugs.

The price decreased on just 46 medicines. That means for every one decrease in price, 96 others became more expensive.

This price-gouging is occurring even as people in other major developed countries are paying a fraction of the cost for the same prescriptions.

Perhaps the most outrageous part of this disparity is that many of these prescriptions were developed or improved with research that was funded by our American tax dollars!

The only people in this country who think drug prices aren’t way too high are the ones getting rich from drug company profits.

Virtually all of us will need prescription medication at some point in our lives to deal with illness or injury.

It is far past time to stand up to big pharmaceutical companies’ lobbyists, and declare that Americans must get a fair deal when they purchase drugs they need for their health.

That’s why I recently introduced a bill to put into law this simple proposition: Drug companies must sell to Americans at or below the price they sell to other developed countries.

If they don’t, they get shut out of Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

My Low Drug Prices Act would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a reference price — the median price of every drug in 11 of the world’s largest developed countries, including Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Canada, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden.

Prescription drugs would have to be sold at that reference price to all individuals in the U.S. market, regardless of what kind of insurance they have or whether they’re paying themselves.

Leslie, Stephen and Dulanda shouldn’t have to choose between paying their living expenses and paying for medication.

No Oregonian should have to.

No American should have to.

My Low Drug Prices Act would finally put Americans’ health and financial well-being before pharmaceutical company profits.

It would end the drug company rip-offs and give Oregonians and all Americans the same fair deal on drug prices enjoyed in every other developed country.

— Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, is a U.S. Senator representing Oregon.

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