Americans Favor Government Action to Lower Prescription Drug Costs

A national poll conducted by Kaiser Health News in August 2015, found that:

  • Over 70% of respondents  believe drug costs are unreasonable.
  • While the vast majority of Americans want lower costs, they differ significantly (based on their political ideology), on how prices should be established.
  • Seventy-six  percent of Republicans believe price changes should occur by the current marketplace competition.
  • By comparison, 57% of Democrat and 43% of Independent respondents support a role for the federal government in reviewing and approving drug prices (similar to what is done in Canada and Europe). Government involvement there has resulted in foreign drug costs being approximately 50% less than in the United States where pharmaceutical companies  establish their own prices.

    There is a consensus among respondents with 94% of Democrats and 84% of Republicans favoring a repeal of the 2003 federal law that prohibits Medicare, (with 55 million subscribers) from negotiating prices directly with drug companies.

Background

Canadian to Foreign Drug Price Ratios

The recent KHN poll is consistent with the growing revolt against the pricing practices of pharmaceutical companies which reached a tipping point when Gilead established the price for Sovaldi, a new drug formulation that is used for the treatment of Hepatitis C, at $1,000 a pill.  Other examples include Vertex’s Kalydeco $300,000 a year price to treat cystic fibrosis and Celgene’s Revlimid price of $150,000 year for the treatment of specific forms of cancer.

Prices for patented-protected drugs for life threatening and disabling diseases such as cancer, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, have been rising dramatically over the past decade with no end in sight.

According to Express Scripts, the number of people with prescription drug cost in excess of $100,000 a year in the US, tripled in 2014.

A Call to Action

Various stakeholders including insurance companies, pharmacy management companies, cancer treatment specialists and concerned citizens have begun to mobilize, educate their family, friends and colleagues and communicate their grave concerns and demand action by pharmaceutical companies and federal and state governments.

The Wall Street Journal (7.23.15) has reported that the federal government could save and reduce its deficit by an estimated $16 billion a year if Medicare was not prohibited by Congress from directly negotiate drug prices as they do for Medicaid and the VA. 

If you share these concerns over the astronomically high drug prices that few people can afford and that are bankrupting thousands of individuals and adding to public deficits, two actions you can take are:

1.Read and sign the Change.org Concerned Citizen’s petition protesting the high cost of cancer drugs at: http://chn.ge/1WHY7FD

2. Read and ask your Congressional House member and Senators to co-sponsor and vote for the:

To find out your elected representatives contact info go to: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

To subscribe to this blog for more articles on the political and economic dimensions of Medicare plans and policies and their impact on patients’ access to affordable and effective treatment go to http://healthplanadvisor.org.

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