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Gillibrand Pushes 'Stop Price Gouging Act' In Troy

NY U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in Troy
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
NY U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in Troy

New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in Troy this afternoon to announce new legislation aimed at making prescription drugs for older Americans more affordable.

Gillibrand told a gathering of senior citizens at Kennedy Towers Senior Housing that her "Stop Price Gouging Act" would drive down prescription drug prices, ensure access to affordable medications and penalize drug manufacturers that hike prices without justification.   "So we have a bill to hold drug companies accountable. If they raise the rate 15 percent, take some of their profit. If they raise them 20 percent we take even more. If they raise them more than 20 percent, we take all the profits from that drug. That is a way to stop price gouging."

Gillibrand says the key is to "speak out." The Democrat’s legislation would require: pharmaceutical companies to report and justify any increases in the price of a drug by more than medical inflation; impose a tax penalty on corporations that engage in excessive, unjustified price increases; conduct a government study examining how drug manufacturers set prices, and reinvest revenues collected from companies in drug research and development at the National Institutes of Health.   "I talked to two veterans outside on my way here. They get the VA. As you know, the VA gets to buy their medicines in bulk, so they get lower prices. Why can't Medicare buy in bulk and get lower prices? It was part of the law when it was written under President Bush under Medicare Part D and it said they can't negotiate to get the lower prices. For who? For the benefit of the drug companies!”

Gillibrand is also pushing for Congress to pass other bills she has cosponsored that would assist seniors by increasing access to medications while making them more affordable.   "A lot of people will drive to Canada to get their drugs. It's cheaper because the Canadian government is allowed to buy in bulk and get lower prices, so we could change the law, and if you wanna drive to Canada, God bless you, you should be able to go and buy safe drugs there."

Deborah Witkowski is Executive Director of the Troy Housing Authority. More than 400 seniors reside at THA sites.   "Most if not all of our seniors are on a very limited fixed income. They realize that rising prescription drug costs can have a dramatic impact on their daily lives. It can reduce or eliminate what they have to spend on social and recreational activities, and more importantly on food, shelter and clothing."

Gillibrand says drug companies can legally raise their prices at any time and aren’t required to report hikes to the public.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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