POLITICO: Rubio blasts drug company ‘profiteering’

Oct 16, 2015

Rubio blasts drug company ‘profiteering’
By Brett Norman
October 16, 2015
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Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio blasted pharmaceutical company “profiteering” on high-cost prescription drugs during a campaign stop this week – a sign that drug prices are becoming a lightning rod for both parties in the election.

“The reason why [drug companies are] raising their prices dramatically? It’s because they can,” Rubio said Wednesday at a private house event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. His comments were captured on a video provided to POLITICO on Friday afternoon.

“It’s because their argument is we can – we can raise prices on this, the market will bear it, people like this drug, they rely on it, their physician will write it,” Rubio continued. “And so because we can, we do. And it’s just pure profiteering.

His comments follow sweeping proposals in recent weeks from leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders to drive down drug costs. They also come amid intense media attention on pharmaceutical companies that have dramatically hiked the prices of old drugs – in one case by more than 5,000 percent.

Rubio, who was responding to a question about how he would address drug prices, also hit on a theme that Democratic candidates have highlighted – the sharply higher prices U.S. patients pay compared to the rest of the world.

“What’s really frustrating is the exact same medicine, just across the border, is a quarter of the price,” he said. “And so you realize America is subsidizing health care for the world.”

Clinton and Sanders both support allowing Americans to reimport drugs from other countries, such as Canada – a measure that has enjoyed some Republican support in the past, including from Sen. John McCain. The pharmaceutical industry sharply opposes the proposal.

However, Rubio did not advocate for re-importation. He said part of the solution is to reduce government obstacles to approving generic products, cutting the time and cost of bringing competition to the market.

He also suggested incentives to encourage doctors to prescribe the less expensive option of equally effective treatments.

“It’s an issue that we’re going to have to take more seriously and figure out what we can do through market and competitive solutions, that offer more competition,” Rubio said. “But also that offer more information for practitioners so that there’s an incentive built in … for doctors to write prescriptions for medicines that are just as good but at a quarter of the cost.”

When contacted Friday afternoon, Rubio’s campaign said it didn’t have an immediate comment.