WASHINGTON — Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Tuesday became the second leading Democratic primary candidate in as many days to unveil a comprehensive plan to lower drug prices.
Harris’s plan relies on government price-setting, allowing the federal government to cap price levels for drugs that are cheaper in other developed nations or whose prices increase by a rate exceeding inflation.
Like some of her rivals for the Democratic nomination, Harris also has threatened the monopolies and intellectual property of drug companies whose prices she deems “egregious.” The Harris administration, she said, would exercise “march-in rights” to strip monopolies from companies whose drugs were developed using federal research.
“As president,” Harris’s campaign wrote on its website, “she’ll require pharmaceutical companies to set fair prices for prescription drugs and tax profits made from abusive drug prices at a rate of 100 percent.”
Democrats and President Trump this year have found themselves unexpectedly aligned on proposals to ensure medicines here are not more expensive than the same medicines abroad. Like rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Harris’s plan would cap U.S. drug payments at the average level paid by countries like Japan, the United Kingdom, and France. The Trump administration has put forth a similar plan that would cap some U.S. drug payments at slightly above international levels.
Like several other Democratic candidates, Harris also proposed to end a tax break that allows drug companies to deduct the cost of direct-to-consumer advertising from their tax liabilities. Harris pledged to direct those revenues to the National Institutes of Health.
Harris’s policy unveiling came just a day after a similar announcement from former Vice President Joe Biden, who also pledged to cap price increases and set prices for expensive monopoly drugs. Most polls currently show Harris, Biden, and Sanders among the current leaders for the Democratic nomination. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), another top-four candidate, has also unveiled detailed drug-pricing policy, including a unique plan to allow the federal government to manufacture generic drugs.
Each candidate’s policy unveiling came just prior to appearances in Iowa at a forum hosted by the seniors group AARP, a longtime antagonist of the drug industry.
Other lawmakers have also used their day jobs as a campaign advantage, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) recently touting a trio of previously introduced bills as her drug pricing platform.
Drug prices have already emerged as a signature campaign issue for Democrats. At the party’s first primary debates last month, candidates competed to take the harshest town against “Big Pharma” both for charging high prices and for many companies’ alleged role in furthering the opioid crisis.