WASHINGTON — In a prelude to the 2020 presidential campaign, U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker — joined by Richard Blumenthal — challenged President Donald Trump on one of his key campaign issues of 2016, urging the president to support legislation they introduced this week to lower the cost of prescription medications across the nation.
Sanders and Booker, who are both considering runs for president in 2020, complained Thursday that Trump has failed to turn campaign rhetoric into action when it comes to lower drug prices. As Sanders put it there has been “radio silence” from the president when it comes to supporting their efforts to introduce more competition in the pharmaceutical marketplace.
Blumenthal, who says he is not running for president, calls the high cost of medications a real issue for most Americans that is not going away.
“Anybody who wants to be successful in 2020 — at whatever level, at whatever race — is going to have to address this issue,” Blumenthal said.
The Democrats held a press conference in the Capitol on Thursday to announce three bills they have introduced to address the cost of prescription drugs. The bills have also been introduced in the House. They would: allow for the federal government’s Medicaid program to use its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices for recipients; allow Americans to purchase prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies where the price of many drugs is significantly lower; and remove patent protections on medications where U.S. prices are above the average price charged in other wealthy countries.
As for Trump’s failure to tackle the issue thus far, Blumenthal suggested that the president has been swayed by pharmaceutical executives spinning “myths and misconceptions.”
“The reason why we see radio silence on this issue is that a funny thing happened on the way to the White House for President Trump. He began listening to the pharmaceutical drug industry, and he began buying those myths and misleading pitches that have so confused some of our Republican colleagues,” Blumenthal said. “But the days of political dominance for Big Pharma are done. The days when they could dictate the political agenda here are over.”
Blumenthal pointed to the results of the midterm election where a new crop of Democrats was elected to the House — providing Democrats a majority willing to support legislation aimed at lowering prescription drug costs.
“It is not some product of fantasy or image-making. It is the political reality on the ground. Anybody who goes home, as I do every weekend, cannot appear in a public place over the course of the weekend without somebody saying ‘What are you going to do about pharmaceutical drug pricing,’ ” Blumenthal said. “These three measures are more than common sense; they are a mandate for our nation’s health security.”