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Caledonian Record: Welch: Americans Gouged By Drugmakers

March 30, 2016
In The News

Congressman Peter Welch lamented the burden of prescription drugs on Americans during a tour through Newport City and Derby Tuesday.

On the national level, Welch, D-Vermont, joined U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and nine other House and Senate Democratic colleagues on Tuesday to protest the price of a prostate cancer drug Xtandi.

The drug was developed with the help of American taxpayer dollars but costs Americans four times the what it costs in other countries.

In a joint statement, Welch, Sanders and Leahy asked the U.S. Department of Health and National Institutes of Health to step in and lower the drug’s cost.

“Pharmaceutical companies provide good drugs that are life-saving and pain-relieving, but their prices are killing us,” Welch said.

“Taxpayers foot a hefty bill so companies like Astellas Pharma can conduct research and improve their drugs. And yet they are charged substantially higher prices than patients in other countries for they very drugs produced by that research. The NIH has the authority to step in to end this price gouging and should do so as soon as possible.”

During a speech at Newport Rotary at the Gateway Center, Welch said drug prices and the costs of health care need addressing, even if Congress is still in gridlock during the presidential campaign.

Prescription drugs, Welch said, are saving lives that were once lost.

“But the prices they are charging are going to kill us,” Welch said.

Americans pay the highest drug prices in the world, he said. And a law bans Medicare from negotiating bulk drug prices, he said.

That should change, he said.

“Donald Trump agrees with me, by the way, but it’s still a good idea,” Welch said.

As for Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination for president, Welch said that it is “alarming” even though he agrees with some of what Trump says about helping the average American.

Trump, he said, spent 30 years preparing to be the worst candidate for president.

Welch said American military men and women follow a code of conduct that bans torture and other behavior “because they want to be honorable.”

Trump has said he would order the military to do things that would violate their code of conduct, Welch said.

Asked a question about the EB-5 foreign investment program fueling the growth at Jay Peak and at Burke, Welch said he supported the influx of funding but also the need for state and federal oversight of the programs.

The question comes as major financial problems plague the new hotel at Burke and slow the move to a high-tech plant in Newport City.

Several praised Welch for his bi-partisan work on bills that benefit all, like finding a little extra money for juvenile diabetes research or working with fellow Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, before he became House speaker, to stop the Food and Drug Administration from banning the use of wood boards for cheese makers, or from beer makers from selling their waste grain to local pig farmers.

He said he will continue to work with Republicans where there are common interests to break through gridlock.

“Vermonters like that,” he said.

Welch toured the Revision Military plant in Newport City and the new Louis Garneau plant in Derby.