Bernie Sanders vows to cut prescription drug prices by half if he's elected

Bernie Sanders on prescription drug prices

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, one the leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, pledged to lower prescription drug prices by half if he captures the nomination and ultimately, the White House. 

"If I am elected president, I'm going to cut prescription drug costs in this country by 50 percent so that we are not paying any more than other major countries are paying. Maybe we can do better than that," Sanders said on "Face the Nation" Sunday. 

Pressed for more details, the self-described Democratic socialist and 2020 presidential candidate did not outline a concrete plan to achieve his latest campaign pledge. Instead, Sanders suggested the U.S. could look to the prescription drug prices in other developed social democracies like Canada, Japan and Germany, and replicate them. He also said the government could "take a look" at the patents of pharmaceutical giants. 

"The five major companies made 50 billion dollars in profits last year," Sanders said. "They pay their CEOs outrageous compensation packages. If they don't like that, then we'll take a look at their patents."

Sanders, who leads some of the early polls of Democratic White House hopefuls alongside former Vice President Joe Biden, has touted several other bold proposals on the campaign, including "Medicare for all" -- a single-payer health care system. Asked if he, like President Trump, wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Sanders noted his health care plan is profoundly different from what the White House and its Republican allies in Congress envision.  

"If Trump gets his way, the cost of health insurance for you will be so high that many people literally will not be able to afford it. Thousands of people will literally die. That's Trump's health insurance plan," he said. "My plan's just a little bit different. I think we should join the rest of the industrialized world. Guarantee health care to all people as a right." 

The president has recently escalated his attacks against the Affordable Care Act and predicted the health care law, which insures millions of Americans, will be "terminated" in court. Mr. Trump has asked a group of Republican senators to devise a replacement for the Obama-era law, vowing that his party will come up with "something that's really spectacular."

Last week, the Justice Department asked a federal appeals court to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act, prompting Democrats to launch a media blitz on health care and and the need to protect the coverage of those with pre-existing conditions, an issue they ran on successfully during the 2018 midterm elections.

Richard Escobedo contributed to this report.