It’s Time Congress Does Something on Prescription Drug Prices

Prescription drug prices have gotten out of control lately.  A shocking report by the American Hospital Association (AHA) found that one-third of Americans have not taken a drug as prescribed because of its price. That’s completely unacceptable.


And it has nothing to do with the cost of making these drugs and everything to do with Big Pharma price-gouging hard-working Americans and folks on fixed incomes, like senior citizens. Take this case in 2015, where a drug company hiked the price of a treatment for a parasitic infection that’s been on the market for more than 60 years from $13.50 a pill to a whopping $750 a pill. And just this year, the insurance company Humana accused a drug company of jacking up the price of Acthar, a multiple sclerosis treatment that’s also been on the market for years, from $40 to $39,000. Because that’s just what multiple sclerosis patients need – having to figure out a way to pay for a $39,000 pill to treat their debilitating disease.


Many people who rely on generic drugs may not know this, but Big Pharma is also behind a big monopoly scheme to keep generic drugs off the market for as long as possible. Behind the backs of their consumers, Big Pharma forces generic companies to agree to “pay-for-delay” settlements, which delay when generic drugs can come onto the market in exchange for promising not to tie the generic drug company up in expensive litigation. According to a Federal Trade Commission Study, these deals cost American consumers an additional $3.5 billion a year in prescription drug costs. The State of California recently announced an almost $70 million settlement with three of the biggest drug companies – Teva Pharmaceutical, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Teikoku Pharma – for striking these “pay-for-delay” deals.


That’s why I was very happy to read that Chairman Grassley (R-IA) and the Senate Finance Committee are working hard to tackle prescription drug prices – no matter how much money Big Pharma tries to flash around to stop it from happening.


Chairman Grassley and his Democrat counterpart Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced legislation in late July that would place price caps on certain expensive drug treatments and stop pharmaceutical companies from raising their drug’s price more than the rate of inflation, among other things. The bill has bipartisan support and we’ve even seen some indication of support by the White House, which is a good sign.


“The White House is encouraged by the bipartisan work of Chairman Grassley and Senator Wyden to craft a comprehensive package to lower outrageously high drug prices, and today we are engaging with coalitions to help build support. We will work with Senators to ensure this proposal moves forward and advances the President’s priority of lowering drug prices even further and increasing transparency in healthcare for the benefit of all Americans.”


Whether it’s this Senate bill that passes or similar legislation, Congress cracking down on Big Pharma helps all Americans who rely on prescription drugs – especially those who need help the most, like the elderly and those on fixed incomes.


Now, of course, Big Pharma is furiously trying to kill these efforts, spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbying efforts alone in 2018. They want to keep the gravy train on the tracks – at the expense of Americans who rely on their prescriptions. Their big plan is to blame others with false assertions, push polls, and misleading statements. This is straight out of the Big Pharma playbook. Thankfully, most Americans are wise to their tactics and don’t believe them anymore.


If you ask anyone on the news, they will tell you the 2020 election is likely going to hinge on health care. And I’m willing to bet that prescription drug prices will be a big part of that conversation. It would be wise for all Members of Congress – especially those Members who have a real fight on their hands like Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) – to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to pass some legislation that will finally hold Big Pharma accountable for their price-gouging and manipulation.