Biden, alongside Bernie Sanders, touts inhaler price drops


Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Biden joined forces Wednesday at the White House, championing the progress they’ve made on lowering the cost of inhalers and other expenses for Americans with asthma

Mr. Biden and Sanders also called on Congress and pharmaceutical companies to do more to curb prices.

“Bernie, you and I have been fighting this for 25 years,” the president said Wednesday. “Finally, finally we beat big Pharma. Finally. I’m serious. I’m proud — I’m proud my administration has taken on big Pharma, in the most significant ways ever. And I wouldn’t have done it without Bernie.” 

Mr. Biden and Sanders said they are pressuring drug companies that are charging hundreds of dollars for inhalers, and the president is trying to cap costs for insulin to $35. Earlier this year, Sanders and several Democratic colleagues have criticized four major inhaler manufacturers — AstraZeneca, GSK, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Boehringer — for having significantly higher prices in the U.S. than elsewhere. Since then, one inhaler manufacturer has nixed patents, and three of the largest inhaler manufacturers plan to cap the cost of inhalers for many patients at $35 a month, according to a White House official. 

The Federal Trade Commission is challenging the validity of drug product patents, including inhalers, in an effort to curb prices and increase competition. 

“Last November, the FTC challenged how drug companies manipulate and play games with … patents to keep low-cost generic drugs off the market, including asthma inhalers,” Sanders said. “By standing up to the drug companies, the FTC has helped deliver this major victory for the American people. And it’s not just inhalers.” 

The president said the inventor of insulin “didn’t want to patent it because he wanted it to be available to everybody.”  

“Here is some good news,” Sanders said Wednesday, speaking ahead of the president. “Despite all of the incredible wealth and political power of the pharmaceutical industry — believe it or not, they have over 1,800 well-paid lobbyists right here in D.C. — despite all of that, the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress are beginning to make some progress.”

Now, “the vast majority of Americans will pay no more than $35 at the pharmacy counter for the inhalers they purchase,” Sanders said. 

Americans pay more for prescription drugs than people in any other advanced company in the world, typically two to three times more, Mr. Biden and Sanders said. One company charges customers $9 for inhalers in Germany, and $286 in the U.S., Mr. Biden said — more than 30 times more. More than 27 million people in the U.S. suffer from asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. 

Sanders has long advocated to create a single-payer, national health insurance program, and Mr. Biden has made lowering health care costs a centerpiece of his White House, as well as his reelection campaign. Last month, he pleaded with Congress during his State of the Union address to pass measures to lower health care costs, something Sanders mentioned in his remarks Wednesday. The administration is trying to cut what Americans pay for prescriptions as prolonged high inflation has slashed Americans’ buying power. 

“Despite all of what we have accomplished up to now, it is not enough,” Sanders said Wednesday. “Working together, we can take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry and substantially lower the cost of prescription drugs in America. And when we do that, we will be lowering the cost of health care in our country.” 



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