Opinion: Seniors need to cut drug prices now, and HR 3 won’t stop innovation

An assortment of drugs. Photo via Pixabay

Here’s a simple fact: Many Californians struggle to afford their prescription drugs. It can mean going without the drugs they need, cutting the pills in half, and even having to make the excruciating choice between paying rent or utility bills, buying food and paying for life-saving prescriptions, the prices of which continue to rise. to skyrocket.

Worse yet, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that nearly half of those in fair or poor health find it difficult to pay for their drugs. These are the patients who need these drugs the most.

Congress is currently considering a bold proposal that would dramatically reduce drug price increases by simply allowing Medicare to negotiate the prices it pays for prescription drugs.

Let’s be clear: this is not a partisan issue. An AARP survey shows that 87% of registered voters 50 and over support Medicare negotiating with drug companies.

At present, the program is largely forced to pay the price charged by drug companies, leaving the government to bear exorbitant costs that increase each year. Medicare already spends $ 129 billion a year on prescription drugs for the elderly. These skyrocketing drug prices are increasing overall taxpayer costs by billions of dollars for programs like Medicare.

Consider this: In just under a decade, nearly 70% of pharmaceutical companies have increased their annual profit margins while patients have faced double-digit price increases. The AARP’s most recent Rx Price Watch report found that the prices of 260 widely used brand-name drugs rose more than twice as fast as general inflation in 2020 – amid a global pandemic and a financial downturn. Americans now spend more than $ 360 billion a year on prescription drugs.

These companies want you to believe that they need these billions of dollars for “research and development”, but that is simply not true. Research shows that the pharmaceutical industry would have NO impact on innovation under current Congress proposals such as HR 3.

By allowing the program to use its considerable purchasing power to negotiate, seniors and taxpayers could see costs significantly reduced.

Yet even in the face of it all, some of the San Diego congressional representatives stand firmly on the side of the drug companies, putting the health and financial well-being of corporate lobbyists ahead of their own constituents.

The point is that we can reduce the cost of our drugs and keep investing billions to keep developing new drugs. Despite what the pharmaceutical companies would have you believe, they are not mutually exclusive. Plus, innovative treatments and life-saving drugs mean nothing if patients can’t afford them.

The federal government continues to play an inordinate role in the research and development of prescription drugs. In fact, most of the important new drugs introduced over the past 60 years have been developed with the help of public sector research.

We consumers pay the high prices for prescription drugs, whether we take them ourselves or not. In addition to the co-payment at the pharmacy counter, we pay drug costs through our insurance premiums and taxes that fund government programs such as the Veterans Administration, Medicare, and Medicaid.

It is just not fair that Americans are forced to pay the highest prices in the world for our prescription drugs, and it is time for Congress to do something about it.

Sadly, some congressional officials once voted against this key bill and now say they have a better plan. They don’t. They have a unique opportunity to do good to their constituents – and all Californians – by supporting the version of HR 3 which is now part of the federal reconciliation program, when it goes to a floor vote in the weeks to come. to come. Americans simply cannot wait any longer for affordable prescription drugs.

Joe Garbanzos is the volunteer state president of AARP in California and a resident of San Diego County.

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