The following organizations are part of the Push For Lower Rx Prices campaign:
Alliance for Retired Americans
American Academy of Neurology
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
American Federation of Teachers
American Medical Student Association
Authentic Caribbean Foundation Inc.
Be a Hero
Blue Shield of California
Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy
Center for American Progress
Center for Medicare Advocacy
Citizen Action of Wisconsin
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative
Committee to Protect Health Care
Communications Workers of America
Consumers for Affordable Health Care
Doctors for America
Employers’ Forum of Indiana
FL #insulin4all, T1International
Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health
Health Access California
Health Action New Mexico
Health Care For All Massachusetts
Health Care Voices
Health Law Advocates
Human Rights Watch
Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge (I-MAK), Inc
Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action
Justice in Aging
Knowledge Ecology International
KS Business Group on Health
Lower Drug Prices Now
Main Street Alliance
Maryland Health Care For All! Coalition
Medicare Rights Center
Metro New York Health Care for All
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
New Jersey Citizen Action
New Mexico Consumers for Affordable Prescriptions Coalition
Nurses for America
Oregon Coalition for Affordable Prescriptions
Patients For Affordable Drugs Now
Pennsylvania Health Access Network
Program On Regulation, Therapeutics, And Law (PORTAL), Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Progressive Democrats of America
Protect Our Care
Purchaser Business Group on Health
R2H Action [Right to Health]
Social Security Works
Tennessee Health Care Campaign
United States of Care
Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut
Universities Allied For Essential Medicines (UAEM)
Unrig Our Economy
West Health Institute
|WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Susan Wild of Pennsylvania and David Mitchell, a cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, penned an op-ed in The Hill that calls on Congress to pass the comprehensive drug pricing reforms now before the Senate that include Medicare negotiation. The piece is in response to the House of Representatives passing a bill to cap monthly insulin copays for the second time — once in the comprehensive package last fall and again as standalone legislation. The piece explains that there is a clear path forward to enact historic and comprehensive reforms that bring relief to all patients — including those dependent on insulin — and save money for consumers and taxpayers, and calls on the Senate to get it done. Read the full piece here and below.
|By Rep. Susan Wild and David Mitchell
April 8, 2022
We are facing an historic opportunity in Congress to finally reform our rigged prescription drug pricing system that has forced Americans to pay almost four times what other nations pay for the same drugs and has left one out of four patients unable to afford the medications they need.
Last fall, one of us, Rep. Susan Wild, voted to pass comprehensive drug pricing reforms that would help millions of Americans afford expensive medications. The other one of us, David Mitchell, is a patient who would benefit directly from the legislation.
Right now, the Senate could follow the House of Representatives’ lead and pass the comprehensive reforms to deliver relief to all Americans with high drug prices. These historic reforms already have the necessary support to pass in the Senate – a clear path through reconciliation.
But the Senate is dragging its feet on reconciliation, instead focusing on passing just one component of the broad package: capping monthly insulin copays. Meanwhile, Rep. Wild and her colleagues in the House have now passed the insulin provision twice — once in the comprehensive package last Fall and again last week as standalone legislation.
To be very clear, it is beyond question that we need to provide relief to people who rely on insulin — the price of which skyrocketed 300 percent over a recent ten year period. But addressing high insulin prices is already included in the broader drug pricing package passed by the House of Representatives and now before the Senate. And there are millions of patients who rely on other expensive drugs who would benefit from the reforms in the whole package.
David, for example, lives with the incurable cancer, multiple myeloma. The list prices of the four cancer drugs keeping him alive total $935,000 annually. Just one of those drugs will cost more than $16,000 out-of-pocket this year. And he is far from alone.
The scope of the problem is enormous: More than 131 million people — 66 percent of all adults in the United States — use prescription drugs. More than 25 percent of American voters said they or a family member had financial difficulty affording a prescribed medication in the last 12 months. More than half of cancer patients report going into debt because of the price of their care, with chemotherapy and pharmacy drugs cited among the top reasons for that debt. One out of four people with diabetes reports rationing insulin due to cost. For patients with multiple sclerosis, the annual median price for brand name MS medications has increased almost 300 percent from $34,000 to $94,000 in less than 10 years.
The comprehensive drug pricing reforms would deliver relief to all Americans who are struggling by – for the first time – authorizing Medicare to negotiate prices directly for some of the most expensive prescription medicines; instituting a hard cap on out-of-pocket drug costs for millions of Medicare beneficiaries and people who are insulin dependent; and limiting annual price increases for prescription drugs to no more than the rate of inflation.
To put this into perspective, if Congress succeeds in passing the drug pricing reforms, David would save more than $14,000 per year beginning in 2024, plus savings on premiums. It would restrain prices and save money for hundreds of millions of Americans.
We have the votes in the Senate to pass comprehensive legislation to help all of these people. In fact, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is a key player in fashioning a reconciliation package and supports one that will reform taxes, fight climate change and lower prices of prescription drugs, including allowing Medicare to negotiate.
And voters, who are feeling the impact of inflation, are united in supporting these reforms. More than 4 out of 5 Americans agree that Medicare should have the power to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. And 9 out of 10 voters agree that allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices is a top reason to pass the reconciliation bill.
There is a clear path forward to pass historic and comprehensive reforms that bring relief to all patients – including those dependent on insulin – and save
Susan Wild represents Pennsylvania’s 7th District and David Mitchell is founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs Now (P4ADNow).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The following statement was issued by David Mitchell, a cancer patient and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, following the House of Representatives’ passage of H.R. 6833, the Affordable Insulin Now Act:
“The House of Representatives today voted to once again pass legislation to cap copays for insulin. Last fall, Democrats in the House passed a historic drug pricing reform package that included copay caps for millions of people who take insulin, Medicare negotiations to lower the price of insulin and other expensive drugs, and limits on annual drug price increases to the rate of inflation. That package of reforms would deliver relief to all Americans.
“Now it is up to Democrats in the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass comprehensive reforms through reconciliation. There are millions of patients who rely on expensive drugs who urgently need the reforms in the drug pricing package, including, most importantly, Medicare negotiation. There is a path forward in the Senate to pass the legislation through reconciliation. In order to deliver on their promises to all patients — including those who depend on insulin — the Senate must act urgently to approve the broad provisions already passed by the House. Americans overwhelmingly support these reforms — they must be the Senate’s number one priority on drug pricing policy upon returning from the upcoming recess.”
My name is Lori Dumont and I am from Brewer, Maine. Unfortunately, I know all too well what it is like to struggle to afford medication since I have seen my brother struggle with his prescription costs.
It all started when my then 56-year-old brother did not show up to work. This worried his co-workers, who called his neighbors to check on him. The neighbors, not getting a response, then called the paramedics. My brother was found dead. Paramedics worked diligently to revive him and he was rushed to the hospital and put on life support. His core temp was 88 degrees at the time he was found. He was immediately airlifted to another hospital where he remained on life support, not expected to live. The following evening, by the grace of God, he woke up and there was no brain damage. He spent the next month in the hospital being treated for the damages caused to his body from the ordeal, including kidney failure. Despite all that happened, I still feel lucky that I did not lose my brother that day.
All of this could have been avoided. My brother suffered ketoacidosis because he could not afford his insulin. Like so many others, his insulin costs were out of control. For both his long term and short term insulin he was paying about $1,500 a month. On a fixed income, high drug prices are literally a matter of life and death. My brother had not told anyone he was struggling to afford his insulin and was trying to control his diabetes through diet alone, which is a dangerous and deadly practice.
I am the only one he could depend on to be his advocate and support system. I have my own set of health issues that I deal with, but the role of a caregiver was almost a full-time job and my brother’s needs always came first. I was with him eight hours a day at the hospital and applied to every assistance program I possibly could on his behalf so he would have all he needed to be alright when he was discharged. He could no longer work and his kidneys were no longer functioning so he was going to need SSDI, food stamps, Mainecare, and help to get his rent paid so he wouldn’t lose his apartment. Most importantly, I had to make sure he had insulin waiting for him when he was discharged. A program at his local hospital gives insulin to people in dire need, and thank God he got enough to last until he was approved for Mainecare.
If insulin were more affordable, both of our lives would have been stress-free, both for him as a patient and me as a caretaker. It is a huge burden not knowing if you will be able to afford your medication each month. It’s scary to think that insulin might not be there when you get out of the hospital, which you were in because of not being to afford insulin in the first place. No one should have to experience those feelings.
My brother’s story is not rare. Fortunately, he survived. However, there are many who do not. The root of the problem is the high drug prices. The drug companies are literally letting people die because they cannot afford medication. It’s not right. Patients must have access to the drugs they need to survive. As a caretaker and a sister, I am seeing the impact firsthand. Something must be done –– and soon.
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Eveleth patient Travis Paulson, who lives with type 1 diabetes, will testify in front of the Minnesota House State Government Finance and Elections Committee this afternoon in support of the bipartisan legislation HF 801, which would establish a prescription drug affordability board designed to address the high prices of prescription drugs for Minnesotans.
Paulson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 14 and has struggled to keep up with the high price of insulin in recent years. His insulin, which he needs to survive, currently costs $300 a vial, which comes to $1,500 per month. Paulson has had to work odd jobs, living paycheck to paycheck in order to stay alive.
“Unfortunately for me, years of rationing insulin has caused long-term complications that never would have occurred if I had access to affordable insulin,” Paulson will tell the committee.
“These out-of-control drug prices have serious consequences for Minnesota patients and contribute to excessive costs for the state. We need our state government to pass House File 801, which would rein in drug prices while increasing transparency around the pricing practices of drug companies. Because drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them.”
HF 801 would:
The hearing and Paulson’s testimony can be watched here at 6:00 PM CT.
The bill was previously heard in the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee, where patient advocate Ramae Hamrin testified in support of the bill. It passed out of committee on a 11 to 7 vote.
My name is Kirk and I live in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I’m 52 years old and am self-employed. I’ve worked hard and enjoyed being productive my entire adult life. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be self-employed and be successful and happy in my career. I am fully living the American dream. Our freedom allows us so many opportunities and I thank God for them all.
Having diabetes type 2, I have quickly learned that there is something very wrong with the American health care system — and it doesn’t take much effort to track the problem back to pharmaceutical corporations. It’s obvious that these companies are putting massive effort into creating monopolies on specialized drug treatments. They make the most money monopolizing drug therapies for life-threatening diseases that affect large amounts of the population. This “formula for success” finds diabetes patients ripe for the picking.
I have an excellent doctor who takes my health care seriously. She monitors my disease and has developed a comprehensive plan to manage my illness. But the amount of time she and I must spend trying to get access to the medications I need is utterly ridiculous.
Health insurance companies are rightfully balking at paying out-of-control prices for these drugs. This leaves my doctor having to make multiple attempts at getting drugs approved or finding alternatives that might not be as effective. And it leaves me, the patient, constantly changing drug stores to save any money possible and spending hours of my time each month tracking down manufacturer “patient assistance cards” that are obviously geared to get the maximum price a person can stand to pay without losing the sale. It’s contrived, extremely greedy, and in my opinion, evil.
I consider myself as fitting solidly in the middle class. My career as a computer network engineer is a rewarding one and I am more than happy with my compensation. In years past, compensation at my level would ensure a worry-free, comfortable retirement. Even after the massive effort from myself and my doctor, the lowest price I pay each month is $1,000 for TWO drugs (Synjardy and Ozempic.)
I am already cutting back on other areas of my life so I can afford these two drugs. What started out decades ago as a smart plan for a comfortable retirement has ended up being a large fund that will be necessary to simply pay for my medications in retirement — and not much else. I know many people my age who are in much worse shape retirement-wise. This leads to quite a bleak outlook for the future of our nation. Who will these companies squeeze for cash when we all run out of money?
My name is David Cruz and I live in Fort Collins, Colorado. In 2015, I was diagnosed with diabetes after my sugar levels reached near fatal levels. After spending time in the hospital where my levels continued to rise, my medications were finally able to bring my blood levels down. I now take Lantus, metformin, lisinopril, and allopurinol.
I dread seeing what the cost will be every month when I have to refill my prescriptions. I’m retired and have insurance coverage through Medicare, but every year my out-of-pocket costs increase. My Lantus insulin alone has a monthly list price over $1,100 and even with insurance still costs me about $130 every month. Once I hit the Medicare cap, which I hit in September of this year, my monthly cost goes up to $250. That’s a huge expense for anyone, but especially for someone who’s retired.
These prices are already unmanageable, but with Lantus continually increasing its price, my out-of-pocket costs continue increasing as well. Every year I hit the Medicare limit for out-of-pocket costs just on my prescriptions, and it seems that I hit this limit earlier and earlier every year.
The high costs of my prescriptions kill my budget. It’s incredibly difficult to plan around the hundreds of dollars I spend on prescriptions each year when retired. I want to be able to plan ahead and stick to a budget, but the uncertainty about my rising prescriptions costs makes that difficult, and with such high prices, I’m lucky if I can afford all my prescriptions and not get behind on bills.
Earlier this year I broke a vial of my Lantus insulin, which only makes affording my drug even more expensive. It’s frustrating that one accident can destroy my budget for the rest of that month and put my health at risk. Because of their astronomical and constantly increasing cost, my drugs are unaffordable for me. I need these drugs to survive, so I end up making sacrifices in other ways, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to keep up with these costs.
I don’t understand how drug companies expect seniors to survive with these high drug prices. Our necessary medications cost hundreds of dollars and many of us are left deciding whether to buy our prescriptions or pay our bills. We should never have to make a decision between staying healthy and paying the bills to keep a roof over our head, and an accident like breaking a vial shouldn’t set us up for financial ruin.
We need leaders willing to work for patients and seniors like me. Our system should work to bring down drug costs and limit price increases like I’ve experienced with my prescription drugs. Insulin prices are already high enough and keep rising with no just reason. Patients across the country are suffering and sacrificing just to afford their medicine.
My name is Lija Greenseid, and I’m one of the thousands of parents whose children live with type 1 diabetes in the United States. When my daughter was first diagnosed, I was shocked –– first by the diagnosis itself and then by the economic cost that came with it. My daughter takes insulin, a drug that has increased by over 1000% in price over the past decade. We hit our insurance out-of-pocket limit for the year with just the first visit to the pharmacy to pick up my daughter’s diabetes medications and supplies.
A few years after my daughter was diagnosed, I heard Nicole Smith-Holt talk about losing her son, Alec, after he rationed his insulin because of the price. I knew then that I needed to get involved. Nicole’s story was similar to other people’s stories, and I worried it could be mine too if someday my daughter couldn’t afford or access her insulin.
Four years ago, my family and I traveled around the world and bought insulin at one-tenth or less the price we paid at home. I grew frustrated thinking of all the families like mine who were paying unreasonably high prices for our insulin, and especially of the families like Nicole’s who had lost loved ones because of the price gouging on insulin. The United States is unique, in a bad way, in how expensive insulin is here. Other countries pay a fraction of what we pay for our insulin. I started sharing my story and took an active role in the fight for affordable insulin.
Though I work part-time as a program evaluator, I began spending more and more of my time advocating for affordable drugs and health care changes. Living in Minnesota, just five hours from Canada, I and several other people with diabetes organized a cross-border trip to raise awareness of the unaffordability of insulin and to purchase the drug at one-tenth of the US price. There have been multiple of these “Caravans to Canada” trips and they have gained national media attention, pressuring elected officials and drug companies to acknowledge the unreasonable price gouging on insulin. Additionally, it brought attention to the thousands of people every year who travel to other countries just to afford their life-saving medications.
When it comes to cheaper insulin prices, Canada isn’t an outlier. Their prices could be our prices here in the United States. If our lawmakers allowed Medicare to negotiate with drug manufacturers as the Canadian public insurance does, the price would decrease significantly. We need lawmakers with the courage to prioritize patients and work to decrease the cost of prescription drugs like insulin.
Because of our advocacy in Minnesota, some insurers in our state have capped their prices, allowing some people to only pay $25-30 a month for insulin. Additionally, we passed the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act which provides a safety net for Minnesotans who can’t afford their insulin. But this is not enough. Insulin is just one drug. We need solutions both at the state and national levels to address the system-wide greed of drug companies. Drug companies continue to charge ridiculous prices, further exacerbating already existing racial and economic inequities in our health care and prescription drug systems. High prices disproportionately affect black and brown communities, the same people hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. In such a critical moment in our country, I’m inspired to refocus my activism and continue advocating for a more just system.