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Bernie Convenes a Gang Beating

Senate HELP Chairman Bernie Sanders has kept busy strongarming biopharma company executives. Sanders threatened to subpoena those who wouldn’t willingly submit to a public flogging in his star chamber.

The Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions has called a hearing for February 8, titled “Authorization for Investigation into the High Costs of Prescription Drugs and Related Subpoenas.” There politicians will grandstand on the price difference of medicines in foreign government-run health systems and the United States.

Three biopharma CEOs have agreed to appear at the bullying fest—the third such gang flogging in Sanders’s committee, beating the same worn-out drum and demonizing representatives from one of the world’s and America's most innovative, valuable industrial sectors.

It’s suspected that Sanders called this meeting to punish America’s pharma innovators, whose private investment into drug discovery and development leads the world. They have the audacity to sue the Biden administration over its opaque manner of implementing the “Inflation Reduction Act’s” drug price “negotiation” measures and the unfair, heavy-handed design of the scheme. There’s no actual negotiation to it, and the IRA’s price control scheme may very well violate the companies’ constitutional rights.

At the hearing, Sanders and his colleagues will badger the executives, as they have before, goad them, twist anything they say that doesn’t fit the Left’s narrative.

Meanwhile, Sanders and a disturbing number of Senators will miss an opportunity for honest, factual inquiry and assessment of the lack of transparency government-controlled health systems operate under.

Shouldn’t U.S. lawmakers in what once was known as the world’s most august legislative body instead defend American innovators against socialist elements of foreign health systems that cheat U.S. interests?

U.S. Senators could investigate how and why other countries’ government-run health systems don’t pay their fair share of the costs that these private firms—many American—bear to bring forth new cures and therapies. Those labors typically take a few billion dollars to discover and develop a single new drug approved to market. About nine out of 10 prospective new medicines don’t cross the finish line.

Instead, expect to see Sanders and his cronies drill the biopharma execs so as to tee up importing foreign price controls into the U.S. health system as their preferred “solution.” Sanders and company have this exactly backwards. Forcing foreign health systems to pay their fair share for drugs is a better solution.

But HELP’s flogging appears geared to push an “international price index” or “most favored nation” scheme—where the government sets U.S. prices of drugs based on some average of certain foreign countries’ prices.

That’s guaranteed to stifle American innovation in this space and destroy good-paying American jobs. It also gives China, which has named biopharma as one of the technologies of which it wants to be global leader, a decided advantage.

Sen. Sanders doesn’t understand, or else ignores, that he’s hounding the wrong side. He should be going after “foreign freeloaders,” not American innovators.

President Trump took the same missteps, and conservatives let him know it. Trump griped about “foreign freeloaders,” but proposed importing foreign-government price controls as reckless and radical as Sanders’s. They got the diagnosis right, but their remedy would kill the patient—American health care’s effectiveness and American health care consumers.

Price controls on medicines, from the Left or the populist side, will most certainly hurt patients and undermine innovation.

One more thing Sen. Sanders and others planning to gang up on the biopharma executives might consider: In witch-hunt hearings in our Congress’s history, the conveners usually come out in history’s analysis as thugs, bullies, etc. Those they skewer come off as sympathetic victims, once the fiery political moment has passed.

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