Excessively high drug prices put many Americans in the impossible position of choosing between health and financial security. There are many proposals in Congress to address high drug prices, but policymakers’ deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry stand as barriers to congressional action.
Recognizing that there are several actions a presidential administration could take to help ensure affordable prescription drugs without Congress, Julie Margetta Morgan, executive director and co-founder of the Great Democracy Initiative, in partnership with Stephanie Sterling, vice president of advocacy and policy at the Roosevelt Institute, released the report “Lowering Drug Prices: A Blueprint for Reform.” The report argues that the rules that shape drug development and approval—as well as those that shape our economy overall—incentivize corporations, including drug companies, to prioritize shareholder value and the enrichment of corporations to the detriment of the American people.
“One of the biggest problems in the prescription drug market is that drug companies hold too much power, and that’s by their own design,” said Margetta Morgan. “Powerful pharmaceutical companies use lobbying and soft corruption to twist federal law in their favor: Instead of promoting innovation and public health, our patent and drug laws now promote monopoly power and profits. It does not have to be this way.”
Specifically, the report suggests that the presidential administration take the following steps to rebalance the power dynamics in the pharmaceutical market:
- Leverage federal investments in research to incentivize reasonable pricing
- Use the government’s patent approval authority more responsibly, including implementing the government’s longstanding patent use authorities and march-in rights to procure drugs at a fair price
- Use the Federal Trade Commission’s full range of powers and remedies to ensure competition
- End the pharmaceutical lobby’s stranglehold on prescription drug policy by instating new ethics rules
“The drug industry tells us that high drug costs are the price we must pay for innovation. But that means in practice that sick people are paying a tax on the drugs they take today to pay for the medicines of the future,” said Sterling. “There’s a better way if only the millions of dollars pharma spends on lobbying didn’t deliberately obscure it. These executive actions curb the power of the pharmaceutical industry and deploy government power to give Americans affordable access to the medicines they need.”
Today’s report follows last week’s announcement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) that she will take on the big pharmaceutical companies to lower costs of key drugs for millions of Americans and, like this paper, shine a light on the opportunities a president can take to lower drug costs.
To learn more about how the Great Democracy Initiative is curbing corporate power and developing policy plans for the future of America, click here.
About the Authors
Julie Margetta Morgan is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Great Democracy Initiative. She is also a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. She previously served as a senior counsel to Senator Elizabeth Warren, a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and in multiple roles at the Center for American Progress. Julie holds a Ph.D. and J.D. from Boston College.
Steph Sterling is the Vice President for Advocacy and Policy at the Roosevelt Institute. She previously served as Director of Strategic Initiatives and Legislative Director at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Prior to SEIU, she was the Director of Government Relations and Senior Advisor at the National Women’s Law Center. She has also served as a federal lobbyist for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, led policy and communications efforts for a Congressional candidate, served as professional staff on a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee subcommittee, and worked as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski. She holds a JD from Georgetown University Law Center and a BA from Brown University.
About the Great Democracy Initiative
The Great Democracy Initiative seeks to develop bold, progressive, and actionable policy plans for leaders seeking solutions to key issues facing our country. Instead of proposing technocratic tweaks or layering new programs on top of a broken system, the Great Democracy Initiative targets the structural problems facing our democracy, including unaccountable policymakers, corporations with outsized economic and political power, and policies that subtly stack the deck against average Americans.