We now see the sordid story of how the Clinton administration, with an assist from Joe Biden killed the possibility of meaningful price controls of drugs:
Before a vaccine to combat the coronavirus pandemic is within view, the Trump administration has already walked back its initial refusal to promise that any remedy would be affordable to the general public. “We can’t control that price because we need the private sector to invest,” Alex Azar, Health and Human Services secretary and a former drug industry executive, told Congress.
After extraordinary blowback, the administration insisted that in the end, any treatment would indeed be affordable. President Donald Trump on Monday morning tweeted that he would be meeting with “the major pharmaceutical companies today at the White House about progress on a vaccine and cure. Progress being made!” The federal government, though, under the Clinton administration, traded away one of the key tools it could use to make good on the promise of affordability.
That’s how much of the pharmaceutical industry’s research and development is funded. The public puts in the money, and private companies keep whatever profits they can command. But it wasn’t always that way. Before 1995, drug companies were required to sell drugs funded with public money at a reasonable price. Under the Clinton administration, that changed.
In the 1994 midterms, the Republican Revolution, built largely around a reaction to Bill Clinton’s attempt to reform the health care system, swept Democrats out of Congress. On its heels, in April 1995, the Clinton administration capitulated to pharmaceutical industry pressure and rescinded the longstanding “reasonable pricing” rule.
The move was controversial, and a House member from Vermont, independent Bernie Sanders, offered an amendment to reinstate the rule. It failed on a largely party-line vote, 242-180.
Then in 2000, Sanders authored and passed a bipartisan amendment in the House to reimpose the “reasonable pricing” rule. In the Senate, a similar measure was pushed by the late Paul Wellstone of Minnesota.
Then-Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware voted to table Wellstone’s amendment, and it was defeated 56-39.
This shot of sh%$ is why the the status quo, and Status Quo Joe, are not a viable alternative for the future.
In order for progressive policies to work, the Neoliberal embrace of looting must be abandoned.