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Senator Gillibrand says her 5-point plan will cut prescription drug costs

Sen. Gillibrand speaking from a podium about addressing rising drug costs. Behind her, a man wearing a lab coat and two men in business suits, all wearing face masks
Racquel Stephen
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks at a press event at the University of Rochester about her proposal to lower prescription drug costs.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand appeared in Rochester on Friday to promote her five-point plan for lowering the cost of prescription drug prices.

“Right now, lifesaving medicine is only lifesaving if you can afford it, and that has to change,” she said.

Gillibrand’s "Prescription for lower drug prices" legislation includes:

  1. An annual review for excessive pricing of brand name drugs. 
  2. Empowering Medicare to negotiate lower prices like the Veterans Affairs and Medicaid already do. 
  3. Importing lower-cost drugs from Canada. 
  4. Expanding subsidies to low-income seniors living in the 14 U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. 
  5. Overhauling financial assistance for Medicare by streamlining programs, eliminating asset tests and expanding the extra help program.  

“These are common sense reforms, and it's time that we make them,” Gillibrand said.
Dr. Curt Haas, director of the pharmacy department at University of Rochester Medical Center, said the rising cost of pharmaceuticals is a problem that extends beyond the consumer.

“The annual rise in prescription drug cost, not only affects patients' out-of-pocket costs, but all aspects of health care,” Haas said.

He gave an example of one drug that used to cost $5 per vial. Today, that same vial is about $1,200, he said.

The increase happened “with no justifiable reason,” Haas said.

He said that adds up to roughly $1 million per year in extra costs on the health care system.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello underscored the burden that drug costs have placed on elderly residents in particular.

“It's forcing seniors to make choices that they shouldn't have to make,” Bello said.

Gillibrand said with the Democrats controlling the Senate, she’s optimistic that the legislation will be passed.

“That'll save the country billions of dollars, it saves individual patients so much money, and it allows people to live and survive,” she said.