WASHINGTON — Joe Biden on Monday unveiled a sweeping health policy platform that includes some of the most aggressive approaches to lowering drug prices any Democratic presidential candidate has proposed to date.
The former vice president would “stand up to abuse of power by prescription drug corporations if elected,” according to his website.
Beyond mainstream Democratic planks like allowing Medicare to negotiate for drug prices, his campaign detailed more aggressive proposals like enacting hard caps on prices for drugs manufactured by a single company.
“Through his work on the Cancer Moonshot, Biden understands that the future of pharmacological interventions is not traditional chemical drugs but specialized biotech drugs that will have little to no competition to keep prices in check,” his campaign said.
Biden’s language regarding Medicare prices was also aggressive. He called the existing ban on the federal government negotiating with manufacturers an “outrageous exception.” Democrats have almost universally called for allowing Medicare to negotiate for drug prices directly, and almost succeeded in including such a provision in the Affordable Care Act, which Biden helped push through Congress as vice president.
His other policy planks: allowing drug importation from foreign countries if the government determines they are safe, and capping price increases at the rate of inflation.
It is a telling new policy platform for Biden, who represented the biopharma hotbed of Delaware for 36 years in the Senate and has been criticized by progressive activists for being too friendly with the drug industry.
The platform makes little mention of patents and intellectual property — an area of drug pricing policy that has been controversial for Biden. In 2013, Biden sided with U.S. and European drug makers and criticized the Indian government for allowing generic drug makers there country to manufacture low-cost versions of previously expensive cancer drugs. He said the country’s policy jeopardized American intellectual property and posed a threat to innovation.
The news came the same day as Biden announced he would at least temporarily shutter his cancer nonprofit, a month after the Associated Press reported that some ethics experts viewed his relationships with the health industry as a potential conflict of interest.
It also came after a month in which Democrats competed to take the angriest tone on “Big Pharma,” most notably at a pair of primary debates in late June. To date, Biden has resisted a progressive lurch toward favoring universal “Medicare for All” coverage favored by top rivals including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
Instead, Biden’s platform on Monday favored strengthening the Affordable Care Act — a position Sanders has already attacked, in part on the grounds that it echoes arguments presented by major insurance and drug companies.