The 2021 Year in Review in Prescription Drug Pricing
Drug pricing was trending in 2021. Here’s a look back at patient advocacy wins and progress toward victories in the year to come.
Welcome to the Year in Review.
1. One-On-Ones With The White House
As the Biden administration worked with lawmakers to craft the reconciliation package, patients across the country brought their stories to the highest office in the land. They offered the president their support as he pushes to deliver on his commitment to lower drug prices. Patient advocates Gail deVore, Iesha Meza, and Sa’Ra Skipper, who all live with type 1 diabetes, metwithPresidentBiden at the White House to share their experiences with high insulin prices and discuss the urgent need to include drug pricing reforms in the legislation. Iesha also introduced the president ahead of his December remarks on how the Build Back Better Act will lower drug prices, and Gailfollowed up with Vice President Harris to talk about getting the bill across the finish line.
2. Fighting Pharma’s Falsehoods
The pharmaceutical industry and its front groups worked overtime in 2021 to spread misleading claims that drug pricing reforms will hurt patients, but the facts aren’t on their side. In response, P4AD released an innovation report and a video debunking pharma’s falsehoods that reforms would hinder innovation and explaining how we can have the innovation we need at prices we can afford. To refute unsubstantiated claims that drug price reforms will lead to reduced access to prescription drugs, P4ADNow launched a video and David Mitchell penned an op-ed emphasizing how lower drug prices will increase patient access to medications they need. Pricehikereports show that pharma raises prices at will, resulting in outrageous costs for patients, enormous profits for drug companies, and huge paydays for their executives. To highlight Big Pharma’s web of influence, P4AD released a report detailing how the financial and organizational relationships between drug companies and major patient groups constrain these groups from advocating for meaningful legislation to lower drug prices. Over and over again, independent factcheckers rated pharma and its allies’ claims as false. The truth is that patientsneedMedicarenegotiation now for real relief from high prices, and we must not fall for pharma’s fear-mongering.
3. Congressional Priority: Drug Pricing
This year, Congress is closer than it has been in nearly two decades to addressing high drug prices. Lawmakers wrapped up an investigation into pharmaceutical pricing practices and the House passed the Build Back Better Act including a hardfought compromise on drug pricing reforms. Patientsshared their stories at all of the congressional hearings held on drug pricing and utilized an advocacy hub launched by P4ADNow to voice how they have been harmed by high prescription drug prices. P4AD founder David Mitchell spokeathearings and press conferences about the urgent need for reforms. P4ADNow and influential organizations representing seniors, union workers, and patients ran ad campaigns urging Congress to seize the opportunity to help Americans by lowering drug prices. These groups, along with frontline Democrats, also sentletters to congressionalleadership and pennedop-eds pushing Congress and the White House to include drug pricing reform in the reconciliation package.
In the second year of the pandemic, drug companies pointed to the development of the COVID-19 vaccines as a reason why prices must be kept high — failing to tell the full story involving billions of dollars in government investment in vaccine research and development. P4AD’s David Mitchell penned a New York Times op-ed, Wall Street Journal letter, and blog post that lays out how the government and taxpayersunderwrote the risk while drug companies now stand to shatter sales records and collect billions of dollars from the vaccines. “To all those drug corporations and executives making billions from those of us paying the bills,” Mitchell writes, “You’re welcome.”
2020, what a year it has been. We welcome 2021 and wish health, hope, and happiness to you all.
1. Candidates’ Campaign Promises
During the 2020 election cycle, patients called on candidates to lay out their plans for taking on Big Pharma and fighting to lower prescription drug prices. In November, voters across the country elected candidates on both sides of the aisle who promised to stand with patients. Now, as the 117th Congress prepares to be sworn in and President-elect Biden readies his administration to take office, patient advocates will be holding them accountable to make sure they deliver on their campaign promises.
2. Taxpayer-Funded Light At The End Of The Tunnel
It has been an unprecedented pandemic, but in many ways, we saw the same old Big Pharma tactics to line executives’ pockets and rake in the cash. As the COVID-19 pandemic grew, the U.S. government and other nations around the world pumped billions into research and development for treatments and vaccines. Now pharmaceutical companies are predicting billions in revenue thanks to treatments and vaccines funded by taxpayers, and company executives have been cashing in, selling hundredsofmillions of dollars in stock. At P4ADNow, we’re grateful for the vaccines that are rolling out — we all desperately need them. But when it comes to vaccine development, pharma should be thanking taxpayers for picking up the tab.
3. Big Pharma’s Lies Spectacularly Revealed
A bombshell pair of hearings in the House Oversight Committee bore the fruits of an 18-month investigation into drug industry pricing practices launched by the late Chairman Elijah Cummings. The investigationdebunked pharma’s talking points that drug prices must be kept high to allow for important innovation. Internal documents from five big drug companies, Celgene, Teva, Amgen, Novartis, and Mallinckrodt, revealed a culture of greed that linked price hikes directly to increased company revenue and executive bonuses. Company executives were forced to face the impact of their price gouging when four patients shared their drug pricing stories at the hearings. The investigation is continuing into 2021; Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney announced her intent to subpoena industry behemoth AbbVie next.
4. Business As Usual
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t make the issue of high drug prices go away — it made it worse. The pandemic has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, and with it their incomes and access to health insurance. This year could have been an opportunity for Big Pharma to exercise restraint when it came to drug prices; instead, it was price hikes as usual for the industry. Since the beginning of the year, drug corporations have hiked the prices of more than 1,000 drugs. Those drugs include medications being used to treat COVID-19 symptoms, tested to fight the virus itself, and prescribed to treat diseases that put people at risk of complications from the virus. It brings a whole new meaning to “cashing in on a crisis.”
Goodbye, 2019. Hello, 2020! Here is a look at the year in review in prescription drug pricing:
1. States Take a Stand
In 2019, states passed a record number of laws to rein in high drug prices. California lawmakers passed a groundbreaking bill that would deter Big Pharma from cutting abusive “pay-for-delay” deals. Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to grant its Medicaid program the power to negotiate lower drug prices and to hold companies that refuse to come to the table accountable. Maryland made history by establishing a drug affordability board. And in Maine, bipartisan efforts resulted in a comprehensive slate of prescription drug pricing laws including importation, a prescription drug affordability board, and transparency measures.
2. Federal Momentum Grows
The CREATESAct cleared Congress as part of a year-end spending agreement. The bill is expected to save the government $4 billion over 10 years by closing a loophole that had prevented generics from coming to market. Drugs impacted include Revlimid, which costs Part D beneficiaries as much as $2,600 for the first month’s supply. While taken by only 37,500 Americans on Medicare Part D, the drug carried the highest total spending for any drug in the program in 2017. Overdue? Yes. The least Congress could do? Yes. But we’ll take it.
3. Patient Voices Grow Louder
Patients across America are continuing to speak out against ever-increasing prescription drug prices. They’ve testified in statehouses and in Washington, DC and met with legislators in dozens of in-person meetings. And they’ve shared more than 20,000 of their stories with Patients For Affordable Drugs that detail the heartbreaking choices they’re forced to make to afford prescriptions, from skipping doses, to cutting pills in half, to forgoing food. The stories of our brave patient advocates can be found here.
4. Pharma Loses Its Edge
Pharma is losing its edge in Washington. The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) passed the House before year’s end. Stripped from the deal were enhanced biologic patent exclusivity periods in Mexico and Canada that would have blocked competition and kept prices high. The deal is evidence that progress on drug pricing in gridlocked Washington and in the face of the deep-pocketed drug lobby is possible.
It’s a new year and drug pricing reform is here to stay. Here are our top 5 takeaways from 2018:
1. Patient Voices Grew Louder — Drugs Don’t Work If People Can’t Afford Them.
Patients delivered this bipartisan message to their elected officials, to the media, and with their votes. They wrote letters, signed petitions, and testified on Capitol Hill and at statehouses, determined to lower drug prices. Patients like Pam Holt, a retired schoolteacher thrown into debt to afford her prescription for multiple myeloma, are fueling a growing movement to lower the prices of prescription drugs.
“Sick people should not have to increase the profits of these huge drug corporations,” Holt told CBS This Morning. “At some point, there needs to be understanding that people should be able to have the drugs that they need to survive.”
States like Maryland have become trendsetters for federal reform. And where states don’t at first succeed — it’s try, try again. Maryland reforms that went into effect Oct. 1, 2018 influenced federal legislation. Maryland patient advocates are continuing their work to establish a board to negotiate drug prices on behalf of patients and taxpayers.
Patient Advocates in 2018 spoke in favor of drug pricing legislation in states like Connecticut and Oregon where transparency legislation passed, requiring Big Pharma to submit price reports on planned prescription drug price hikes. In 2018, reporters sought and received records on planned price hikes made public by California’s first-in-the-nation drug pricing transparency law, opening secretive, routine drug price hikes to fierce public scrutiny. (BTW, make sure to check out our new legislative map, which features state drug pricing legislation proposed in 2018.)
4. From the Kitchen Table to the Ballot Box
Runaway prescription drugs prices know no party. It’s a kitchen table issue, and voters stood ready to act in 2018. In Massachusetts, voters powered Gov. Charlie Baker to victory after he listened to patients and promised action to lower drug prices. Voters ousted industry apologists like incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who took industry cash and told seniors to “shop around” for lower drug prices. Similarly, Big Pharma CEO Bob Hugin drove cancer patients into debt and then lost his bid for a New Jersey U.S. Senate seat.
5. The Blinding Glare of Patient Scrutiny
A Midterm campaign run by Patients For Affordable Drugs Action proved Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, has long done pharma’s bidding, leaving patients who rely on expensive life-saving drugs exposed to higher drug prices, longer. Eshoo — who is the likely chair of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health — knows patients are watching.
Happy 2019. Cheers to a fruitful year of drug pricing reform!