Biden, Sanders call out Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly for high drug costs in op-ed

President Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) continued their calls for lowered drug pricing in an op-ed published Tuesday, citing the high cost of the weight loss products manufactured by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly.

Biden and Sanders echoed the common criticism of drug companies charging the U.S. significantly more for prescription drugs when compared to peer nations, in the op-ed published in USA Today.

They pointed to Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro, for which the U.S. pays up to six times the price compared to what countries like Canada and Germany pay.

“It is most certainly not Americans’ patriotic duty to pay high drug prices at home so others abroad can enjoy the fair prices that every American is entitled to,” they wrote.

The joint op-ed comes after Sanders and Biden appeared to bury the hatchet earlier this year over the senator’s criticisms of the White House, for what he argued was a lack of substantial action on combatting drug prices. Sanders spoke at the White House in April to celebrate the progress that has been made, though he added in his remarks at the time that it was still “not enough.”

The pair cited actions the Biden administration has made to counteract high drug costs, such as passing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which limited prescription drug spending for Medicare beneficiaries and allowed the program to negotiate drug prices for the first time.

Biden and Sanders opined that the benefits conferred by the IRA should be expanded to reach everyone.

“At a time when many Americans are dealing with the myriads of chronic illnesses, no one in our country should be forced to pay over $2,000 a year for the prescription drugs they need, not just seniors,” they wrote.

One of the central reasons the U.S. pays more for medications than other nations is due to a lack of price control strategies, as health policy organizations like the Commonwealth Fund have previously observed. Medicare drug price negotiations are one such strategy the U.S. is now employing.

The op-ed also cited the pressure campaigns on drugmakers Sanders has carried out as chair of the Senate Health Committee as consequential actions in lowering drug costs. Novo Nordisk is currently the subject of Sanders’s most recent pressure campaign, with the company’s CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen scheduled to testify before the senator’s committee in September.

Biden and Sanders wrote that Novo Nordisk’s scientists “deserve great credit” for developing Ozempic and Wegovy, both forms of semaglutide.

“But, as important as these drugs are, they will not do any good for the millions of patients who cannot afford them,” they wrote. “Moreover, if the prices of these drugs are not substantially reduced, they have the potential to bankrupt the American health care system. We will not allow that to happen.”

They noted that if just half of U.S. adults with obesity took drugs like Wegovy, it would cost $5 billion more than what Americans spent on all prescription drugs in 2022.

Biden and Sanders vowed to “do everything within our power” to lower drug costs if manufactures like Novo Nordisk don’t “end their greed.”

A Novo Nordisk spokesperson said they were “disappointed that a very difficult and complex problem is being oversimplified and mischaracterized for political purposes.”

“Each country has its own healthcare system and making isolated and limited comparisons ignores this fundamental concern. What remains constant is the indisputable value and cost savings Novo Nordisk medicines bring to patients, healthcare systems and society,” they added.

The Hill has reached out to Eli Lilly for comment.

Updated 1:59 p.m. ET.

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