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Gillibrand: Prescription Drug Price Gouging Costing Lives

At Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) discusses her plan to stop drug price gouging.
At Crouse Hospital in Syracuse, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) discusses her plan to stop drug price gouging. PAYNE HORNING / WRVO NEWS

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - Rising prescription drug costs continue to plague Americans, an issue that the Trump Administration is now trying to address. As the nation's top lawmakers discuss potential solutions, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is once again pushing her own legislation that would attempt to fix the problem by cracking down on pharmaceutical companies.

In 2015, a company called Valeant Pharmaceutical hiked the price of one of its diabetes drugs by roughly 1900 percent. Carl Butch, medical director of Crouse Hospital's medical practice, said at the time they had 92 patients who were affected.

"When a pharmaceutical company steps in and changes the cost of a drug from $300 a month to $6,000 a month overnight, that’s a huge problem for us," Butch said.

Gillibrand says stories like that are all too common today, and the issue has literally become one of life and death as some some patients stop refilling their medication because they cannot afford it.

"I met a woman who was representing a couple whose - the husband had cancer and his treatment was $5,000 a month; they had $60,000 in savings," She said. "He realized that if I spend $5,000 a month I have a year of treatment, and I don’t want to leave my wife destitute, so he chose not to get that treatment. He died nine months later because he couldn't afford to spend the money he needed to survive."

In order to solve the problem, Gillibrand says, lawmakers need to take on the companies driving those spikes.

"They’re just looking for return rates," Gillibrand said. "They just want the highest return for their shareholders or for their investors, and they don’t care about the impact on the patients or the hospital or the healthcare system overall."

Gillibrand has introduced several pieces of legislation that attempt to address the problem with a tax on companies that spike the costs of drugs without a legitimate reason, allowing Americans to buy cheaper drugs from other countries and by letting the U.S. government negotiate drug prices for those on Medicare.