BOSTON — Massachusetts patients will speak out against high drug prices tomorrow during testimony in favor of sweeping state reforms that would require drug corporations to justify exorbitant prices and give the state negotiation power on behalf of patients and taxpayers. Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, a Washington, DC-based bipartisan patient advocacy organization that takes no money from the pharmaceutical industry, is helping patients share their drug pricing stories in Massachusetts, sending two patients to testify before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing tomorrow and publishing a raft of patient stories on its website to underscore the urgency of the drug pricing crisis in Massachusetts.
“Drug corporations have a direct line into Massachusetts’ state coffers and patients’ pockets, and it’s time for the legislature to act,” said David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “We’ve heard from 265 Bay staters who are suffering under relentless prescription drug price hikes. We applaud Gov. Baker, consumer groups, and the state legislature’s efforts to rein in drug prices, and we are proud patients are standing up against abusive pricing practices.”
HB 1133 and SB 706 would:
- Empower the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission to monitor prescription drug prices and set upper payment limits for high-priced drugs. The bill would give the Attorney General and HHS Secretary authority to impose penalties if drug companies continue to gouge taxpayers for prescription drugs.
- Authorize MassHealth to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of patients and taxpayers.
- Require drug manufacturers to justify price increases and submit reports on profits, R&D costs, advertising and marketing.
Testifying at tomorrow’s hearing are:
Mary Mack of Nantucket: Mary lives with advanced heart failure due to a rare type of genetic muscular dystrophy. The symptoms of her disease—fatigue and shortness of breath—make it difficult to accomplish even the simplest task. Mary was on Entresto for only five months when the copay went up to $225 a month. The expense became too much for her family, so she stopped taking the drug.
Helen Fonseca of Tewksbury: Helen faces Crohn’s Disease. She plans to tell lawmakers: “I take Apriso. Before I retired, this drug cost $60 for a three-month supply. However, once I retired three years ago, the cost skyrocketed, going up to $500 for the same supply. There is no generic for this drug, even though its patent has run out. This cost is absurd. And for people like me who are on a fixed income, this cost is often impossible to pay.”
MORE PATIENT PERSPECTIVES:
Kathleen Rider, Otis, MA: “I am on a fixed income and am forced to shell out $145 for the medication every three months. It adds up. The stress of having such a costly medicine does affect my mental health. This is a necessary medication for me.”
Diane Sarmento, Lowell, MA: “I am a Medicare patient who was prescribed Ampyra, which is meant to strengthen my muscles and improve my overall quality of life. But the price of this drug is prohibitive: when I can’t get assistance, I can’t afford it.”
John Wood, West Springfield, MA: “I have type 2 diabetes that I work to keep at bay by living a healthy lifestyle. However, I also take Onglyza to help maintain my A1C levels. I usually fall into the Medicare donut hole within 6 months, causing a coverage gap. That’s when the price skyrockets to upwards of $450.”
According to recent polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 25 percent of Americans say they trust drug corporations to price their products fairly. Nearly one in four Americans report difficulty affording their prescription medications.