|WASHINGTON, D.C. — Patients For Affordable Drugs Now today launched an ad thanking Rep. Angie Craig (MN-02) for being a champion in the fight for lower drug prices and for her vote to pass the Build Back Better Act. The ad features a cancer patient named Jackie, whose cancer medication, Revlimid, is priced at over $20,000 every month. |
“Millions of people like me are struggling. It’s time for our leaders to lead,” Jackie says in the ad.
The ad responds to Rep. Craig’s vote in favor of the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House of Representatives on Nov. 19. Rep. Craig has been a leader in pushing for meaningful drug price reforms to be included in the Build Back Better Act. Following the release of the White House’s Build Back Better framework, which did not include any drug price reforms, she led a letter calling for the inclusion of reforms as an essential element in the legislation. Earlier this year, Rep. Craig also signed onto a letter calling on President Biden to include drug pricing in the reconciliation package.
“On behalf of patients, we thank Rep. Craig for fighting to ensure the inclusion of meaningful drug price reforms in the Build Back Better Act,” said David Mitchell, a patient with incurable blood cancer whose drugs carry a list price of more than $900,000 per year and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now. “Her steadfast support for the drug price provisions in the Build Back Better Act was a key factor in the House passage of the bill that finally allows Medicare to negotiate lower prices. Ninety percent of voters support Medicare negotiation, and the reforms in Build Back Better will help millions of Americans.”
The ad will run as the Senate moves to take up the Build Back Better Act in December. The Build Back Better Act will, for the first time, authorize Medicare to negotiate prices directly for some of the most expensive prescription medicines, including insulin; institute a hard cap on out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries; and limit annual price increases to stop price gouging by drug corporations.
“Congresswoman Craig just voted to pass the Build Back Better Act, which for the first time lets Medicare negotiate lower drug prices for Minnesotans,” the adrunning on digital platforms says. “She stood up to Big Pharma attacks and did the right thing for patients. Tell Representative Craig: Thank you for voting to lower drug prices for millions of Americans.”
Watch the ad here.
Full transcript of the ad below:
JACKIE: This is a four-week supply of my chemotherapy. It’s 20 pills, and it’s $20,000 every single month. Millions of people like me are struggling. It’s time for our leaders to lead.
VO: Congresswoman Craig just voted to pass the Build Back Better Act, which for the first time lets Medicare negotiate lower drug prices for Minnesotans. She stood up to Big Pharma attacks and did the right thing for patients. Tell Representative Craig: Thank you for voting to lower drug prices for millions of Americans.
SAINT PAUL, Minn. — The following statement was issued by Sheila McLean, a patient and the executive director of Patients For Affordable Drugs Now, after the Minnesota House of Representatives passed House Commerce Bill 1031, which includes a prescription drug affordability board:
“We applaud the Minnesota House for advancing a bill that includes the establishment of a prescription drug affordability board. The affordability board would rein in drug prices and offer relief to Minnesotans struggling under the high price of prescription drugs by establishing upper payment limits for expensive medications. On behalf of patients across Minnesota, we urge both the House and the Senate to include the board in the final commerce bill this spring.”
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Bemidji cancer patient Ramae Hamrin will testify in front of the Minnesota House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee today in support of the bipartisan legislation HF 801, which would establish a prescription drug affordability board designed to protect Minnesota patients like Hamrin from unaffordable prescription drugs.
Hamrin lives with multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer, and relies on Revlimid, an oral chemotherapy drug sold by Celgene/Bristol Myers Squibb, to keep her alive. Revlimid is priced at over $250,000 a year and, even on Medicare, Hamrin faces out-of-pocket costs of $15,000 a year. That is simply untenable for Hamrin.
“In order to continue taking this life-saving drug, there is a chance I will have to deplete my life savings, cash out my 401(k), and sell my house. When those funds run out, I’m not sure what I will do. Usually, I am a planner — but I cannot plan for this,” Hamrin, age 50, will tell the committee. “My circumstances make me feel helpless at times, but I am grateful that I can share my story with all of you.”
“This bill to create a drug pricing board is an essential first step to hold drug companies accountable and fix this broken system. Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. I strongly urge you to vote YES on HF 801 to protect patients from the burden of high drug prices.”
HF 801 would:
The hearing and Hamrin’s testimony can be watched here at 3:00 PM CST.
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.
My name is David Undlin and I am a longtime resident of the Saint Paul, Minnesota area. Before I retired, I worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep for 20 years. I was happy to be able to contribute to society by selling medications that would be helpful to people. Unfortunately, times have changed since then, and it’s happened at the expense of patients like you and me.
I recently had a pulmonary embolism that caused a bit of lung damage, and so I was prescribed blood thinners by my doctor to prevent another blood clot from forming in the future. But when I went to fill my prescription, I was stunned at the cost.
Both Xarelto and Eliquis cost me around $300 for a three-month supply. That may not seem like a lot to some, but I am retired and living on a fixed income. I have to skimp on my medications or give up other necessities in order to be able to afford them.
These medications are necessary to protect my good health. I urge my lawmakers to listen to patients and work to lower drug prices for all those in this country.
SAINT PAUL, MN — A Minnesotan hurt by skyrocketing drug prices will share his story at the state house today as he testifies before the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division Committee in support of HF 3228, a bill that would allow the state to investigate and address excessive drug costs.
Travis Paulson lives with type 1 diabetes and will explain to the committee how the rising price of insulin forced him to ration his medication, severely impacting his health. Paulson knows he is not alone and is testifying to encourage the legislature to take action on behalf of all Minnesota patients suffering under the crushing cost of insulin and other prescription drugs.
“By the time I was 30… my insulin cost $300 a vial; for me, that was $1,500 a month to survive… My health is what ultimately paid the price… years of rationing insulin has caused long-term complications that never would have occurred if I had access to affordable insulin,” Paulson will testify. “…We cannot allow Big Pharma to get away with pricing drugs out of reach for our families. I strongly urge everyone in this room to support HF 3228.”
To help patients across Minnesota, Paulson will ask lawmakers to support HF 3228, the Prescription Drug Affordability Act. The bill would:
Paulson will testify at 9:45 AM CT today before the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division Committee.
My name is Barbara Bultman, and I am a resident of Faribault, Minnesota. I’ve got a big family –– 8 kids, 19 grandchildren, and 8 great grandchildren. When I’m not with my family, I love to spend time with my longtime group of girl friends.
I have issues with my lungs, so my doctor wrote me a prescription for multiple inhalers. I never expected to have to worry about the cost of medicine, but it’s now something that is constantly on my mind. Trelegy Ellipta is an inhaler that has worked wonders on my breathing –– but it costs $353 out of pocket. I couldn’t afford that, so I had to borrow money from people to get the inhaler I need to breathe. The Augmentin I take on top of my inhalers is also expensive.
I ration my inhaler and it affects my health and my lungs. I know there are so many others going through this. I get scared and it causes stress, which only worsens my health. I worked in manual labor all my life, and it has taken its toll on my body. I’ve been left with osteoarthritis and scoliosis.
Life is hard when you’re sick and aging. I hope every day that I will receive help and be able to afford my medication.
My name is Travis Paulson and I am from Eveleth, Minnesota.
I have been a Type 1 diabetic for many years, but affording insulin wasn’t that difficult as a child –– it was about $8 a vial. The problems came when I was in my late twenties and early thirties. I was working in finance full time and going to college full time, and my insurance had a deductible of $7,500. Insulin at the time ranged from $300 – $350 a vial, and I was requiring about 5 vials a month.
There were times I couldn’t scrape together $5.00 and was just plain poor due to these costs. On several occasions I starved myself and took less insulin than I was supposed to so my vial would last longer. Unfortunately, even doing that I would run out of insulin. I wasn’t involved in diabetes groups and knew no other diabetics. I don’t even think there was a name for rationing insulin at the time. I thought I was in a unique situation, so I didn’t reach out for help.
I would stay in bed sick and call into work sick until my paycheck cleared the bank. I’d then force myself up and get to a pharmacy and get insulin. It’s really hard to move when your blood sugar is that high. I remember feeling like I wasn’t going to make it, but somehow I did. 10-15 years ago I had never heard of anybody dying from rationing insulin, so I figured that while it wasn’t a good thing, it wouldn’t go so far as to kill me. I’ve learned since that I was just very lucky at the time –– I easily could have died.
It was during the financial crisis of 2007-2008 that I was forced to ration insulin again. Times were tough for lots of people. I remember camps of ex-financial services workers living in tents. But aside from just finding housing during the financial crisis, I had an additional problem. I had to afford my insulin. I traveled around the country working odd jobs to afford insulin and rationed what I had, living a meager existence and working warehouse jobs wherever I could.
It was after I came back home to Minnesota to get back on my feet that I decided I would no longer tolerate the abuse and hold on my life Big Pharma had. I realized I could get insulin from Canada for less than a tenth the price I was paying in the US. From then on I have been getting my insulin in Canada and helping others do the same.
The unfortunate thing is that all those years of rationing insulin have caused diabetes retinopathy, insulin resistance, and long-term complications that never would have occurred if I had access to affordable insulin. My health is what paid the price.