In Case You Missed It: Congress must capitalize on momentum to hold Big Pharma accountable

Jul 9, 2019

Lauren Aronson
The Hill
July 9, 2019

The American people are demanding that Congress hold Big Pharma accountable and the momentum to lower prescription drug prices has never been greater.

For years we’ve seen outrageous examples of price-gouging.

  • The price of a drug that treats opioid overdose increased by more than 550 percent in three years – at the height of the opioid crisis.
  • The price of one leading painkiller was 22 times more expensive in 2018 than it was in 2013.
  • The price for a drug that treats a rare infant seizure disorder has risen from $40 a vial in 2000 to nearly $39,000 today.

These price spikes have real consequences on real people. Every day we see heart-wrenching examples of the consequences of out-of-control drug prices — patients forced to empty savings accounts, travel out of the country in search of cheaper prescriptions and skipping or rationing dosages. This puts not only their financial health, but their physical health in jeopardy.

Big Pharma’s response to this crisis of their own creation is more of the same. In just the first six months of 2019, Big Pharma companies hiked the price of more than 1,200 brand-name prescription drugs. In 2018, for every price reduction,there were 96 price increases.
At the same time the industry launched campaigns attacking hospitals, health plans, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and even advocates for seniors. A recent report showed the industry spending record sums on lobbying — fighting bipartisan solutions to lower prescription drug prices

House and Senate lawmakers should capitalize on the growing momentum by advancing additional key reforms. To start, they can advance reforms to Medicare Part D that provide out-of-pocket relief for seniors paired with true accountability for Big Pharma. Lawmakers can cap out-of-pocket costs, while disincentivizing Big Pharma’s price-gouging by shifting a significant portion of the catastrophic burden to drug makers — generating savings for seniors at the pharmacy counter and protecting patients and taxpayers from out-of-control prices.

Lawmakers can also advance additional policy solutions that will lead to meaningful price relief where there is little or no competition. Sole-source drugs, in particular, are too often associated with egregious examples of price-gouging and are ripe for bipartisan solutions to spur competition and transparency.

This is a pivotal moment in the fight to lower prescription drug prices and deliver relief for millions of American patients.

Big Pharma will continue to wage a well-funded campaign to maintain the status quo and to distract from the industry’s egregious pricing practices. Leaders in Washington must ignore the diversions, capitalize on this rare bipartisan consensus and seize the moment to deliver lower drug prices for the American people.

Read the full op-ed here.