U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill about the 11 Senate Democrats who sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging him to invoke the 14th Amendment to prevent a catastrophic debt default, in Washington, 18 . May 2023 .

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Senator Bernie Sanders he promised to stand up to the president Joe Biden‘with choose to lead National Institutes of Health — and any other health candidate — until the administration delivers a plan to cut prescription drug prices.

“I will oppose all nominations until we have a very clear strategy from the government … how we are going to reduce the incredibly high cost of prescription drugs,” Sanders said late Monday. Conversation with The Washington Post.

Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, controls when his panel reviews nominees for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Biden administration will not be able to confirm the selection of its NIH director, Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, nor any other current or future health agency nominee without the support of the independent state of Vermont.

The administration announced it intention to nominate Bertagnolli, a cancer surgeon who led the National Cancer Institute last month.

The White House told the Post that Biden shares Sanders’ concern about drug prices, which is why the president signed the Inflation Reduction Act, “the most important piece of legislation to address high prescription drug costs.”

The law’s provision punishes drugmakers for charging people on Medicare prices that rise faster than inflation.

Lawmakers, researchers and advocates have repeatedly warned that drug prices in the U.S. exceed those in other countries and ultimately hurt Americans who need access to life-saving treatment.

Sanders, a frequent pharmaceutical critic, along with the committee’s Democratic majority, issued a message Monday analyzes the costs of prescription drugs that were developed with the help of NIH funding and research.

The report concluded that Americans consistently pay higher prices for NIH-supported drugs compared to people in other countries.

The White House said in a statement Monday that Biden shares Sanders’ concern about drug prices — “which is why he signed the Inflation Reduction Act, the most comprehensive law to address high prescription drug costs.”

The law’s provision punishes drugmakers for charging people on Medicare prices that rise faster than inflation.

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The average cost of new treatments that NIH scientists have helped invent over the past two decades is $111,000, according to the report. With the exception of one treatment, prices in the US were higher than in other G7 countries, the report added.

For example, a drug for severe mouth ulcers called Kepivance costs $19,000 in the US, according to the report. But the treatment, developed by biotech company Sobi, costs just $5,000 in Italy.

The report also argued that federal officials lack opportunities to ensure drug companies set reasonable prices for new drugs that are partially funded by taxpayer subsidies.

“The federal government should also stop handing out monopolies on public inventions,” the report said. She provided examples of how health officials appear to have “handed over technology to taxpayers while getting little in return.”

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