Senator Kirsten Gillibrand appeared in Niagara Falls Friday morning, calling for passage of multiple bills that, she says, will lower the cost of prescription drugs.
Gillibrand appreared at the John Duke Senior Center on Hyde Park Boulevard, explaining thay many seniors throughout the state living on fixed incomes are finding it more difficult to afford necessary prescriptions, with drug companies continously raising prices.
She is sponsoring a bill, the Stop Price Gouging Act, that would require pharmaceutical companies report increases in drug prices and provide justification for any raises that exceed the medical inflationary rate. Under the bill, companies found to excessively raise prices with no just cause would be subject to tax penalties.
Gillibrand is also backing other bills that aim to lower prescription drug prices.
"We should let Medicare negotiate drug prices," she said, about the Medicare Drug Price Negotation Act. "Medicare is such a big purchaser. How come they can't get large volume discounts? How come they can't get the same rate as Canada gets from that drug manufacturer? Just like the VA can negotiate drug prices, Medicaid should be able to negotiate drug prices, both Medicare and Medicaid."
Gillibrand additionally supports legislation that would allow U.S. consumers to buy their prescription drugs in Canada and to allow drugs from Canada to be imported into the U.S.
Gillibrand said rising drug costs are making it tougher for seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes, to afford their prescriptions. In some cases, she says, seniors are being forced to choose between their medications, food and home heating.
Rebecca Brooks-Caso, program coordinator at the Duke Senior Center, shared the story of a recently deceased volunteer who, upon learning he had cancer, also found out that the drugs that gave him a 50-percent chance of survival would cost $5,000 per month.
Rather than buy the drugs and bankrupt his wife, he allowed his illness to run its course.
"Ralph chose to die and not take the treatment," she said. "He died eight months later, a long horrible death. Ralph died at the hands of the greed of the pharmaceutical companies, as far as I'm concerned, and he died because he loved his wife."
Gillibrand was also critical of the Trump Administration, which announced it would not defend parts of the Affordable Care Act in pending litigation. She says the president is effectively encouraging continued greed at the expense of people and their lives.
"Health care should be a right, not a privilege," Gillibrand said. "We should be fighting for Medicare for all. We need at least one not-for-profit option where anybody can but into it at a price they can afford, no matter what, and if you are not able than you are covered. That is the truth of where we have to get to."