Congress Can Start the New Decade Right by Ending Big Pharma’s Price Gouging

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Rising prescription drug prices continue to plague Americans, with 1 in 4 struggling to pay for their medication. And the problem has gotten even more out of hand when the pharmaceutical industry decided to kick off the new decade by further increasing prices on 491 prescription drugs.

Experts say that Big Pharma will continue to hike prices this year. Take, for example, Bristol-Myers Squibb, which recently raised the price of Eliquis, which helps patients across the U.S. prevent blood clots and strokes. Meanwhile Pfizer, another giant of the pharmaceutical industry, has increased the price of Prevnar – which helps prevent pneumonia in children – while also boosting the price tag of its breast cancer medication Ibrance by 5 percent.

Those companies aren’t alone, either. Abbvie, another prescription drug manufacturer, raised the cost of Humira by 7.4 percent, which comes as Abbvie had already increased its price 19 percent in recent years. Given that Humira is one of the most commonly used medications in the country for arthritis and Crohn’s disease, this has the potential to cause massive problems for patients, especially since they’re now expected to pay $72,000 annually for it. It would be hard to argue the price hike was necessary, since Abbvie pulled in $20 billion from Humira last year.

Earlier this year, President Trump used his State of the Union Address as a platform to urge Congress to provide patients with some much-needed relief by passing the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act. Now, it’s up to Congress to come through and pass the measure.

By penalizing pharmaceutical companies that raise their prices faster than the rate of inflation, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act would deter any monopolies from price gouging. The bill also takes another major step by capping out-of-pocket drug costs to $3,100 for Medicare beneficiaries. The Congressional Budget Office has shown precisely how much the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act would help patients and taxpayers alike, reporting that the measure would save taxpayers billions while simultaneously ensuring Americans who aren’t on Medicare would see lower prescription drug prices as well.

Thankfully, the legislation has started to gain significant traction among our representatives in Washington. Vice President Mike Pence has recently voiced his support for the bill, remarking in a recent interview that President Trump “said pass the bipartisan bill.” In Congress, Senators Martha McSally and Shelley Moore Capito have thrown their support behind the bill as well. Now, more lawmakers must follow suit and show their commitment to lowering drug prices for Americans and bringing an end to the pharmaceutical industry’s price gouging.

This is especially true for legislators running in hotly contested reelection campaigns. Senator Cory Gardner, for example, has taken notice of how important keeping drug prices under control is to voters. Recently, he brought attention to the issue by noting that people across the country are “suffering from the rising costs of prescription drugs and don’t have any options or choices available to them.”

With leadership and guidance from Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, Congress can get this done. Legislators need to realize sooner rather than later that lowering prescription drug prices is a top priority for American voters, and the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act is how we can accomplish that. That way, millions of Americans will be able to afford the prescriptions they need without worrying about breaking the bank for their health.

Katlyn Batts is the Chairwoman of the Wingate University College Republicans and an employee of the Jesse Helms Center.

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