Bernie Sanders Just Proposed a Big Cash Prize to Make AIDS Drugs Cheaper

March 14, 2016, 8:00 PM UTC
Bernie Sanders Holds Super Tuesday Campaign Rally In Vermont
ESSEX JUNCTION, VT - MARCH 01: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters after winning the state of Vermont on Super Tuesday on March 1, 2016 in Essex Junction, Vermont. Thousands of Americans across the country are participating in Super Tuesday, the biggest day of the 2016 primary season. Thirteen states and one territory are participating in Super Tuesday: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Wyoming and American Samoa. This years election, with strong candidates on both the left and the right, is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and divisive in recent history. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Photograph by Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Bernie Sanders unveiled a new plan Monday aimed at tackling HIV/AIDS drug prices: The Democratic presidential contender is proposing an annual cash prize for companies that help make the therapies more affordable.

The plan would establish a $3 billion-plus annual prize fund for firms that clear a number of thresholds. It also comes shortly after rival Hillary Clinton apologized for praising President Ronald Reagan and late First Lady Nancy Reagan’s efforts on addressing the AIDS epidemics in the 1980s.

“The Prize Fund would reward medical researchers and developers of medicines based primarily upon the added therapeutic value a new treatment offers and the number of people it benefits,” the Sanders campaign wrote.

Sanders’ cash reward is a carrot meant to combat a system of rewarding drugmakers via market exclusivity. But there’s also a stick: Under his plan, “drugs would have generic competition immediately after FDA approval” to lower prices.


Drugmakers may not be particularly excited by the idea. The pharma industry has tended to focus on extending exclusivity as a means of ensuring the bottom line in both domestic and international policy. But critics have pushed back on this strategy, arguing that it burdens patients.

The HIV/AIDS drug market is dominated by a number of major pharmaceuticals including Gilead (GILD), Pfizer (PFE), GlaxoSmithKline, and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ).

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