US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill about 11 Democratic senators who sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment to avoid a catastrophic debt default, in Washington, May 18. 2023.

Evelyn Hochstein | Reuters

Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to oppose President Joe Biden’s selection to lead the National Institutes of Health — and any other health candidate — until the administration presents a plan to lower prescription drug prices.

“I will oppose all nominations until we have a very clear strategy on the part of the government … in terms of how we bring down the outrageous cost of drugs,” Sanders said late Monday. interview With The Washington Post.

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Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, takes control when his committee reviews nominees for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Biden administration would not be able to confirm the selection of the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Monica Bertagnoli, or any other current or future health agency nominee without the support of the independent state of Vermont.

The administration announced its intention to nominate Bertagnoli, the cancer surgeon who leads the National Cancer Institute, last month.

Lawmakers, researchers, and advocates have repeatedly warned that drug prices in the United States are higher than those in other countries and are ultimately hurting Americans who need access to life-saving treatments.

Sanders, a frequent drug critic, passed along with the Democratic majority on the committee a report Monday analyzed the cost prices of prescription drugs that were developed with the help of National Institutes of Health funding and research.

The report concluded that Americans consistently pay higher prices for NIH-subsidized drugs than people in other countries.

According to the report, the average price of new therapies that NIH scientists have helped create over the past two decades has been $111,000. The report added that, with the exception of one treatment, US prices have exceeded those in other G7 countries.

For example, the drug Kepivance for severe mouth ulcers costs $19,000 in the United States, according to the report. But the treatment, developed by biotechnology firm Sopi, costs just $5,000 in Italy.

The report also argued that federal officials are missing opportunities to ensure drug companies set reasonable prices for new drugs that are funded in part by taxpayer subsidies.

“The federal government must also stop giving away monopolies to generic inventions,” the report said, providing examples of how health officials seem to have “handed over taxpayer technology while getting little in return.”


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