MONTPELIER, Vt.,  March 22 – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) testified by phone Thursday morning at a hearing of the Vermont House Committee on Health Care about the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.

The House committee is considering S. 175, which is sponsored by Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden). The legislation addresses the wholesale importation of prescription drugs into Vermont, bulk purchasing and the impact of prescription drug costs on health insurance premiums. The Vermont Senate passed the measure unanimously on March 1, and it is now under consideration in the Vermont House.

“At a time when the five major drug manufacturers made more than $50 billion in profits in just one year, millions of Americans – about one in five adults – cannot afford the medication they are prescribed,” said Sanders, who is a senior member of the U.S. Senate health committee.

Sanders has introduced “The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act” in the U.S. Senate, which would allow the importation of affordable and safe drugs by wholesale distributors, pharmacies and individuals.  Sanders’ legislation currently has 21 co-sponsors.

The American people overwhelmingly support allowing the importation of safe and affordable prescription drugs. A September 2016 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 71 percent of Americans favor importing prescription drugs from Canada.

The Kaiser Family Foundation also reported that 8 percent of American adults – or 19 million people – say they or someone in their household had already imported a drug at some point to get a lower price.

A comparison of last month’s cash price for a 90-day supply of certain prescription drugs revealed huge differences between the United States and Canada. For instance, EpiPen cost $637 in the United States, compared to $250 in Canada. Crestor, a medication used to treat high cholesterol, cost $525 in the U.S., but only $224 in Canada. Nexium, used to treat heartburn, cost $506 in the United States, and $262 in Canada. And Advair, which is used for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cost $1,169 in the U.S., but just $361 in Canada.

“This is a huge issue tied right into the whole health care crisis in America. Vermont could play an extraordinary role, if we showed the world that we can stand up to one of the most powerful lobbying forces and most powerful industries in the world,” Sanders said.

Sanders testified by phone on Thursday because the U.S. Senate was in session.