September 30, 2021 at 5:00 am ET
Lawmakers have a historic opportunity to lower prescription drug prices for the American people — and the momentum for action has never been greater as Congress considers solutions to address the national crisis of prescription drug affordability.
Meanwhile, the discussions around potential solutions in Washington are playing out against a backdrop of Big Pharma’s egregious pricing practices.
An August report found that Amgen and Merck both engaged in annual price hikes exceeding 10 percent on medications in their portfolios over the last year — despite previous industry pledges to keep price hikes below double digits.
And while the nation has combated historic health care and economic challenges over the last year, brand name pharmaceutical companies have doubled-down on a business-as-usual approach to price hikes. In major batches in July 2021, January 2021 and July 2020, Big Pharma increased prices 956 times on brand-name drugs.
Big Pharma’s price hikes are also outpacing inflation: A study released earlier this year found that 22 of the top 25 best-selling drugs in Medicare Part D between 2018 and 2019 had price hikes that exceeded the rate of inflation. The median list price increase for that year across these 22 drugs was 6.5 percent, or 3.6 times the rate of inflation.
Why has Big Pharma continued to engage in such egregious pricing practices, even as more Americans are having trouble affording their prescriptions and momentum grows for lawmakers to act?
The branded pharmaceutical industry may feel that it can spend enough on misleading advertising to defeat solutions that would lower drug prices and hold them accountable — a recent analysis found Big Pharma has spent approximately $18 million opposing solutions to lower drug prices.
Lawmakers shouldn’t be moved by Big Pharma’s scare tactics and big spending. The American people certainly haven’t been.
New polling commissioned by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing and conducted by Morning Consult finds that despite Big Pharma’s spending spree, American voters overwhelmingly reject the pharmaceutical industry’s bogus rhetoric claiming drug pricing solutions would undermine innovation into new cures.
When survey respondents were asked which statement they agreed with more, 65 percent of voters selected: “Some lawmakers say prescription drug prices are out-of-control and Congress must act now to lower prices, provide relief for struggling American patients and taxpayers and hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable for their price-hiking and anti-competitive practices.” Just 14 percent selected: “Some lawmakers say solutions to lower drug prices would amount to a tax on pharmaceutical companies that threatens to reduce investments into potentially life-saving innovations.”
In addition, more than 80 percent of U.S. voters say pharmaceutical companies are to blame for rising prescription drug prices — including nearly two-thirds of voters who say pharmaceutical companies are “very responsible.”
Massive majorities from across the political spectrum also support solutions being considered before Congress to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower drug prices.
More than three-quarters of voters support a redesign of the Medicare Part D program to deliver relief for seniors, keep price hikes below the rate of inflation and discourage price-gouging by giving Big Pharma significant skin-in-the-game in the catastrophic phase of coverage.
More than half of voters “strongly support” all three solutions. Fewer than ten percent of voters oppose any of the three.
In addition, 80 percent of voters support solutions to help lower drug prices by increasing list price transparency and 73 percent support solutions to help lower drug prices by boosting competition in the marketplace.
Members of Congress have made repeated pledges to tackle this urgent challenge, now is the time for action. Seventy-one percent of voters say failure to pass drug pricing solutions before the end of the year would have an impact on their vote in the next election, with nearly half of voters saying it would have a “significant impact.”
President Joe Biden and his administration deserve credit for demonstrating an ongoing commitment to lowering drug prices and for making repeated calls for Congress to hold Big Pharma accountable. Lawmakers who recently voted to advance solutions to tackle this issue in U.S. House committee markups have also added to the positive momentum for action.
There will be more debate about the best path forward, and that is to be expected, but the American people are counting on results at the end of the day — counting on lawmakers to stand up to the big spending and misleading rhetoric of Big Pharma, and counting on Congress to ensure Americans are never forced to decide between paying for rent and groceries or the medications they need.
Lauren Aronson is the executive director of The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP).
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