One of the major obstacles facing the healthcare system today is the rocketing price of drugs. Here are more details about drug prices (see: The Challenge of High Drug Prices in the U.S.):
Americans pay higher prices and spend more per person for prescription drugs than other developed country. Unlike other countries our laws and regulations and the way they are enforced permit pharmaceutical manufacturers to set their own prices with little government oversight....The average annual growth rate in per capita spending on prescription drugs increased nearly every year between 1970 and 2010, but the sudden spike in drug costs, just as the ACA was expanding insurance coverage, has put a spotlight on the issue....Between 2010 and 2013 $84 billion in branded drugs came off patent. This situation changed suddenly in 2014 and drug price inflation returned in force. First, the portion of new patented drugs began to increase, particularly for expensive specialty drugs, such as the new hepatitis C drugs, which alone made up about one-third of the $32.4 billion in increased spending on prescription drugs in 2014.
Although there have been claims by Hillary Clinton that she will take steps to restrain drug prices if elected (see: Hillary’s Plan to Respond to Unjustified Price Hikes for Long-Available Drugs), interest is now being focused on a drug-price ballot issue in California, Proposition 61 (see: Drug companies funnel $108 million to defeat California drug-price ballot question). Below is an excerpt from the article:
Political donors have spent a record $450 million to support and oppose [the] 17 November ballot initiatives in California, beating the state's own record for the most spent on propositions appearing on statewide ballots in a single year....The fundraising has soared at least $12 million past California's previous record, when $438 million was spent on the campaigns for and against 21 measures on the ballot in 2008.....Proposition 61, a proposal to cap what the state pays for prescription drugs at the lowest price the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays, has drawn the biggest spending. Pharmaceutical companies have contributed most of the $108 million that's been raised to defeat it....The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which placed it on the ballot, has spent about $14 million backing it. Because Proposition 61 would not force drug companies to change their prices, the state legislative analyst says its fiscal effect on the $3.8 billion market is unknown.
Here's an excerpt from another article that digs deeper into the reasons why Big Pharma is opposing Prop 61 (see: Big Pharma fears Prop. 61, but not for the reasons Bernie Sanders says):
[Bernie] Sanders writes, ”It’s unacceptable that the exact drugs that we buy in our country are sold in Canada, Britain and other countries for a fraction of the price.” You might ask why U.S. pharmaceutical wholesalers don’t simply buy their drugs from Canada. The reason is that the Prescription Drug Marketing Act (PDMA), signed into law by President Reagan in 1988, prohibits the reimportation of U.S.-made drugs once they have been shipped to a foreign country. Even more outrageous, the law signed by President George W. Bush creating Medicare Part D prohibits the federal government, Big Pharma’s largest customer, from negotiating the prices it pays for drugs. The reason that Big Pharma is pouring so much money and effort into defeating Proposition 61 is that its passage may just open the door to inquiry into the PDMA and the Medicare Part D law.
To summarize, drug wholesalers in the U.S. can't obtain product from other countries like Canada where prices are lower. Medicare Part D also prohibits the federal government, the pharmacutical industry's biggest buyer, from negotiating lower drug prices. Prop 61 in California can't force drug companies to lower their prices but it draws attention to the drug price problem. I think that we are now on the cusp of meaningful change regarding drug prices.