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Kamala Harris Takes Aim at ‘Price-Gouging’ Drug Companies

Michael Rainey

Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) rolled out a proposal Tuesday to lower drug prices by cracking down on pharmaceutical firms.

The plan is similar to proposals from both fellow presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and President Trump, which would empower the federal government to set reimbursement levels for some drugs.

Under Harris’s proposal, titled “People Over Profit,” the Department of Health and Human Services would have the authority to set a “fair price” for drugs based on the prices in other industrialized countries, such as Canada and Germany. Pharmaceutical companies would get hit with a 100% tax on profits generated by prices above that level, with the tax revenues paid to consumers as rebates.

“As President, I will not stand idly by as Americans pay thousands of dollars for prescription drugs while big pharmaceutical companies rake in massive profits,” Harris said in a statement.

Some other details from the proposal:

* Harris wants to end the tax deduction for direct-to-consumer advertising expenses, which she said totaled $6 billion in 2016. The revenues associated with the elimination of the deduction would be dedicated to the National Institute of Health for research.

* If Congress fails to act within the first 100 days of a Harris administration, the senator said she would “take executive action to lower drug prices herself,” including an investigation “of all major prescription drugs whose pharmaceutical companies are price-gouging patients.”

* Pharmaceutical companies that are found to be price-gouging could face competition from lower-priced imports.

* For high-priced drugs that were developed with federal funding, Harris would deploy the Bayh-Dole Act, passed in 1980, to “march in” and license drugmakers’ patents to competitors. Harris cited HIV prevention drug Truvada, which was developed using taxpayer funds and costs more than $20,000 per year, and example.

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