Biden ready to take on 'outrageously expensive' drug prices

US president hopes to lower prescription drug costs for Americans with his landmark social spending bill

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his administration's plans to lower the costs of prescription drugs, enabling Medicare negotiate prices, with caps for seniors and the disabled. AP

US President Joe Biden highlighted the positive outcomes his Build Back Better Act will have on the nation's increasing prescription drug prices as the landmark bill remains in the Senate chamber's hands.

Mr Biden noted that Americans pay the most for prescription drug prices among every other developed country, sometimes at rates two to three times higher than others.

One cancer-fighting drug in the US costs $14,000 while the same drug provided by the same supplier costs just $6,000 in France, for example.

"I think it's safe to say that all of us ... whatever our background, our age, where we live [that] we can agree that prescription drugs are outrageously expensive in this country," Mr Biden said.

"It doesn't need to be that way."

If his social spending bill becomes law, drugmakers would be required to pay rebates to Medicare if they raise prices faster than inflation.

Mr Biden lashed out at drug companies for their soaring prices.

Pointing to "one of the most egregious examples", Mr Biden noted the rising cost of insulin treatments for diabetes sufferers. A bottle of the treatment costs manufacturers less than $10, but the price increases in certain types of insulin means that some Americans have had to pay up to $1,000 a month, depending on their needs.

"These price increases are about companies looking to maximize profits," Mr Biden said.

Mr Biden hopes to reduce the cost of insulin to $35 a month. It would also cap out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses for disabled seniors at $2,000 annually.

Roughly 34 million Americans suffer from diabetes, Mr Biden noted. One-and-a-half million of those who suffer from Type-1 diabetes require frequent insulin doses.

Under the bill, Medicare would also negotiate fair drug prices while hopefully encouraging investment in research. The federal government would be able to negotiate the price of older drugs by 2025.

A timetable for the passage of the Build Back Better is still unclear.

In a letter to his colleagues on Monday, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer expressed hope that they could still pass the $1.75 trillion bill by Christmas.

Any changes the Senate makes to this House-passed bill would have to be approved by the House of Representatives before it could be sent to Mr Biden for signing into law.

Centrist senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin currently remain the two Democratic holdouts from granting Mr Biden a major victory. Both remain sceptical even after months of negotiations with the White House.

Mr Biden was less definitive about a timeframe for the bill's passage when pressed on Monday.

“I want to get it done no matter how long it takes," he said.

Updated: December 6th 2021, 9:07 PM