Oct 21, 2021

Broad Array of Leaders Encourage Lawmakers to Capitalize on Unprecedented Momentum to Hold Big Pharma Accountable

Prescription drug prices are out-of-control and the momentum for Congress to act is unprecedented. A recent national survey from The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) found more than one-in-four American voters say they or a family member has struggled to afford a prescription during the pandemic. An overwhelming 84 percent of voters support solutions to lower drug prices by holding pharmaceutical companies accountable.

In addition, a diverse array of voices from around the nation — including political and community leaders as well as health care providers & medical experts — are speaking up to encourage Congress to meet the moment and deliver on repeated promises to act.

Here is some of what political and community leaders, health care providers and medical experts have said about the urgency to lower drug prices and hold Big Pharma accountable in recent weeks:

Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long (D), Delaware:

Across Delaware and our nation, families and seniors are feeling the impact of prescription drug prices. As Lieutenant Governor and as a nurse, families have shared their struggles in being able to pay for medications to manage chronic diseases and/or prevent serious illnesses. Too often they face difficult decisions that compromises their health because they are forced to ration drugs, skip meals or forego payment of bills in order to afford their prescription drugs and insurance coverage. This is wrong and it must stop.

This crisis impacts every American family, community and business. It is a universal issue that is growing. A June poll by West Health found that one in four Delaware families were unable to afford a necessary prescription over the last year and 67% said they believe prescription drug prices are continuing to climb. The stress and anxiety created by the financial cost for medications and insurance is one that we must continue to address across both the state and federal government.

I stand with our Congressional delegation and president that action must be taken with a sense of urgency. Lower drug prices must be a top priority. Congress must ensure drug pricing solutions advance as part of the upcoming spending package. Delaware patients, families, seniors and small businesses are counting on results now.

State Treasurer Colleen Davis (D), Delaware:

People from all walks of life are struggling to afford the high cost of health care in this country. As it stands, too many Americans are forced to make impossible choices between accessing lifesaving prescription drugs or putting food on the table or paying rent… Polling has shown that 80% of Delawareans are concerned about the cost of prescription drugs. A quarter of Delawareans have forgone medications to pay for essential items and bills. In 2021, 25% of Delaware voters reported that they or someone in their household could not afford a prescribed medication.

A quarter of Delawareans have forgone medications to pay for essential items and bills. In 2021, 25% of Delaware voters reported that they or someone in their household could not afford a prescribed medication… No one ought to have to choose between needed medicine costs and other household expenses… I urge my colleagues to stand with me. It’s time to give Americans this much-needed relief — it’s not only smart policy, but it’s the right thing to do.

State Senator Lela Alston (D-Phoenix), Arizona:

During my time as an elected official in Arizona, I have heard anecdotes about impossible decisions families are forced to make due to out-of-control prescription drug costs. Horrible choices like deciding to buy critical medications or paying the rent, buying groceries, or paying the utility bill. This is a choice no one living in a country as prosperous as American should ever have to make. 

In particular, Congress should place a cap on out-of-pocket spending for seniors, stop drug makers from increasing drug prices at rates higher than inflation and deter price-gouging by giving drug makers significant cost sharing responsibilities for seniors who reach the most expensive tier of coverage under the Part D program. These solutions have already won enough support in the U.S. House to advance — the impetus is now on the Senate to act.   

I am urging Senators Sinema and Kelly to join the growing majority of Americans who support immediate action to hold brand name drug companies accountable and lower prices on life-saving medications. Sinema and Kelly have promised results on this issue. Congress must address the cost of prescription drugs.   

Dr. Joseph Ramharack, M.D., Colorado:

As a physician who has worked at Clinica Tepeyac, a well-regarded private healthcare facility that provides free or low-cost healthcare to the Latino community in Denver, as well as a number of rural hospitals in Colorado, I see firsthand what the predatory practices of Big Pharma have done in the real world.

Here are some common-sense ideas that our leaders in Washington should advance immediately: Cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors; our older citizens deserve the right to live in dignity. Stop Big Pharma’s price hikes that exceed the rate of inflation. This will apply only to drugs already being sold; the big drug companies cannot claim that this will harm research and development of new cures. Hold big drug companies accountable by requiring them to assume liability for at least 50 percent of total costs in the catastrophic phase of the Medicare Part D program. This is the final phase of the program which comes into effect once a patient’s out-of-pocket costs reach $6,550 on covered drugs; after a low co-pay, the plan (and the government) pays approximately 95% of the total cost of prescription drugs. Requiring big pharmaceutical companies to be liable for at least part of the cost for these medications will reduce the cost to both the plan and the taxpayer. 

These solutions will help Colorado patients and make it easier for health care providers across Colorado to provide quality care. These solutions also will help to invigorate our economy by giving patients a little more money to spend. President Biden deserves our gratitude for working to stop the out-of-control increase in drug prices. Sens. Bennet and Hickenlooper should make this a top priority and deliver for our state and our country.

Brent Downs, Executive Director – St. Joseph the Worker, Arizona:

Big Pharma has pushed too many Arizonans into terrible financial situations in the pursuit of profits above all other considerations, and the industry continues to raise prices and work in overdrive to undermine competition.

A poll from earlier this year found one in four Americans either experience financial uncertainty affording medications, either personally or through a member of their family. Enough is enough – our lawmakers in Washington must hold Big Pharma accountable for the industry’s profiteering practices that exact a tremendous toll on those facing financial insecurity in our communities.

Sandra Newell, Community Activist, Colorado:

Every day I see and hear of members of our community struggling to afford their prescription medications. They tell of the gut-wrenching decisions they must make – pay egregious amounts for their prescriptions or pay for essentials like groceries or rent… I worked with and know both U.S. Sens. Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper. They know how to get things done when they put their minds to it. It is time for them to step up and stop Big Pharma from putting Coloradans in these predicaments.

Sens. Bennet and Hickenlooper must work across the aisle to end the abuse of the patent system to increase competition in the pharmaceutical marketplace and increase transparency so Big Pharma can no longer skate by after raising their prices without justification or public scrutiny… We need urgent solutions to cap seniors’ out-of-pocket costs, stop price hikes above the rate of inflation and disincentivize Big Pharma’s price-gouging behavior by giving the industry substantial liability when Medicare Part D beneficiaries reach the program’s catastrophic phase of coverage.

Ezekiel Emanuel, Oncologist, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania.

Companies in other industries spend more on R&D than do drug companies, even though they have lower profit margins. The company that spends the absolute most on research — over $40 billion per year — is Amazon, famous for low prices and low profit margins. Many car companies, like Volkswagen, Daimler and Ford, often invest more in R&D than drug companies even though their profit margins are lower. Indeed, among the 20 companies worldwide that invest the most in in research, only four are drug companies — and the top drug company ranks only ninth. Clearly, many other industries do not need the same super high prices and profits to justify high investments in innovation.

More importantly, prices in the United States for just the 20 top-selling-drugs are so high, that their profits more than pay for all of drug companies’ research in the entire world. A 2017 study showed that drug companies earned $116 billion from the high prices charged in the U.S. compared to what they would have earned at European prices, but they “spent just 66 percent of that amount, or $76 billion, on their [total] global R&D.” In other words, high U.S. prices pad drug companies’ profits by $40 billion over what they invest in all research and innovation. Surely, they can afford slightly less profits, or alternatively, spend less on marketing and lobbying, and be able to maintain their current R&D investment.

Gaylene Miller, West Virginia State Director, AARP

AARP has tracked price trends for nearly two decades, and our research consistently finds that the prices for brand name medications most often used by seniors are increasing much faster than prices for other goods and services.

The good news is that bills currently before Congress would save both seniors and taxpayers billions of dollars on prescription drugs — and ensure that Americans are paying fair prices for the medications we need. It’s outrageous that we must pay three times what people in other countries pay for the same medicine.

Finally, we want Congress to require drug companies to pay a rebate if they raise the price of existing drugs faster than the rate of inflation. Our Rx Price Watch Reports have found that this happens year after year — and Americans would pay far less for their medications if those prices only rose as fast as other goods and services.

Americans are sick and tired of paying the highest prices in the world for their prescription drugs. Congress needs to lower prices now.

Damian Vicente, Resident of Jackpot, Nevada

Half of all Americans take prescription medicines and about one in four adults can’t afford them, leading many to skip doses, incur debt or forgo other basics like rent and food to get the medicines they need.

That’s why Congress must take a broad and inclusive approach to solving the problem of skyrocketing drug prices instead of doing the bare minimum. Prescription drug affordability, like all health care, is a family issue. Too many times families and friends have to come together in order to help someone they know pay for their prescriptions. Congress needs to take action that lowers drug prices and makes medicines affordable for everyone, no matter where they live, how old they are, or what kind of health conditions they have.

The prescription drug industry is the most profitable sector in the nation, outpacing profit margins in some other industries by double digits. A recent study showed that drug corporations could make $1 trillion less in sales and still be the most profitable industry in the nation.

…Stand up to Pharma lobbyists and deliver on their promises to lower drug prices.

Representatives Colin Alred (D-TX), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Andy Kim (D-NJ), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA)

Americans should be able to afford the medicines they need no matter who they are, where they live or the size of their bank account. But too often, Americans are forced to make decisions about their health based not on what their doctor prescribes but on what they can afford.

It’s outrageous that pharmaceutical companies can charge Americans as much as 10 times what they charge patients in other countries. As proud American capitalists, we can think of no business in the private sector that would handle procurement in such a manner.

Republicans and Democrats alike have known for decades that price-gouging on prescription medicines hurts our communities. For too long, elected leaders have failed to follow through on what they have been promising for decades: lowering the price of prescription medicines so that every person can afford the medicines they need to survive.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Big Pharma benefits from huge taxpayer investment, and then turns around and charges
those same taxpayers exorbitant prices under government-protected monopolies—all while reaping some of the highest profits of any industry and paying out massive CEO bonuses…

We know Big Pharma’s complaint—it’s the same tired argument they’ve made for years, that competition would limit research into new drugs. But this has been debunked. Plus, American taxpayers already help these companies fund their research through the National Institutes of Health and other government investment. 
Research into new drugs and treatments is vital. But these advancements won’t have much value if patients are unable to afford them or go bankrupt paying for them.  
Many of these corporations spend more on advertising than they do on research and development. If they’re forced to charge reasonable prices, there shouldn’t be a need to cut into R&D budgets; they could reduce their marketing or advertising budgets instead, or make executive pay less exorbitant and spend less on stock buybacks.

Read more on solutions to lower prescription drug prices and hold Big Pharma accountable HERE.