For decades, Big Pharma has raised drug prices with impunity. Here in Indiana, the average annual cost of prescription drug treatment increased 57.8% between 2012 and 2017, while the annual income for Hoosiers only increased 10%. Prescription drugs don’t work if patients can’t afford them.
That’s why the Senate needs to pass the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act when they return from August recess. We thank Sen. Young for helping Hoosiers afford the prescription drugs they need by voting for this bipartisan bill in the Senate Finance Committee. AARP Indiana urges Sen. Braun to join him in backing it when the Senate reconvenes.
Consider insulin, which people with diabetes rely on. Its price nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013. But it isn’t a breakthrough drug: insulin was invented nearly a century ago, yet modern formulations remain under patent, thanks to drug makers working the system. Some patients trek to Canada, while others risk their lives by rationing doses.
Even if you don’t need insulin, you are affected by skyrocketing drug prices. We all are. That’s because we pay at the pharmacy counter, through our insurance premiums, and with the taxes that we pay to fund programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Older Americans are hit especially hard. Medicare Part D enrollees take an average of four to five prescriptions per month, yet their average annual income is around $26,000. No wonder one in three Americans has not taken a medication as prescribed because of the cost.
The root cause of the problem is clear: The high prices of prescription drugs set by pharmaceutical companies when they first come on the market, which then increase faster than inflation year after year.
AARP Indiana is working at the state and federal levels to rein in drug costs for all Hoosiers and all Americans through an effort we’ve called “Stop Rx Greed.” The bill under consideration in the Senate would cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors and crack down on drug makers whose price hikes outpace inflation. The nation clearly needs this reform: the average drug price increase in the first six months of 2019 was 10.5% — five times the rate of inflation.
Hoosiers, like all Americans, already pay the highest drug prices in the world.
Meanwhile, we’ve seen some fighting for the status quo. Several drug companies actually sued the Trump administration so that they could keep the list prices of their drugs secret.
But the tide is turning. The National Academy for State Health Policy reports that, so far this year, 29 states have passed 47 new laws aimed at lowering prices for prescription medications. During this past session of the Indiana General Assembly, our lawmakers passed legislation to study the issues consumers face related to prescription drug pricing, access and costs. We’re looking forward to being a part of those upcoming discussions. Ultimately, drug costs are a national issue, so federal action is essential.
In D.C., there is rare bipartisan agreement that something must be done. President Trump addressed the issue in his State of the Union, saying: “It is unacceptable that Americans pay vastly more than people in other countries for the exact same drugs, often made in the exact same place. This is wrong, unfair and together we can stop it.” Indiana’s congressional delegation is in the position to lead on this issue and make a difference for every Hoosier.
We urge the Senate to pass the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act in the fall, when the House is expected to act on its own drug pricing bill. Congress needs to act to stop Rx greed.
Sarah Waddle is state director of AARP Indiana.