Last week, Gabriel Levitt, founder of Prescription Justice, published an Op-Ed in The Guardian about Alex Azar, President Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Mr. Levitt's Op-Ed, Alex Azar is big pharma personified. He must not become US health secretary, underscores the urgent need for members of Congress to oppose Azar's confirmation.
President Trump reinvigorated the drug price policy debate by recently stating that prescription drug prices "are out of control" and, for a second time, that drug companies are "getting away with murder". He's expected to soon announce a bi-partisan drug price task force to examine prescription drug costs. The president's renewed focus on lowering drug costs is a relief from the misaligned priority of healthcare reform, which seems to have overshadowed Americans most pressing healthcare concern: soaring drug costs.
In his most recent remarks, President Trump focused on the fact that prescription drugs are much cheaper in other countries. In fact, it's common for brand-name prescription drug prices to be as much as 90 percent lower in pharmacies outside the U.S., which is why millions of Americans, despite federal restrictions, have had to import medication from Canada and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the law and misleading public information campaigns sponsored by drug companies scare Americans away from more affordable medication. (more…)
During a press conference today, Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), joined Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to introduce new legislation aimed at lowering the high cost of prescription drugs for the 41 million Medicare enrollees. Medicare is the largest purchaser of prescription medications, however it is expressly prohibited from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies over the price of medications.
The Medicare Drug Price Negotiations Act would amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act by removing the non-interference clause, which expressly bans Medicare from negotiating drug prices. The bill instructs the Secretary of the Health and Human Services to negotiate for Part D drugs, either by creating a national formulary or instructing Prescription Drug Plans (PDPs) to makes changes to their formularies. (more…)
During recent testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee hearing on Stabilizing the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, AARP became the largest consumer organization to publicly support the prescription drug policy solutions reflected in Prescription Justice’s policy platform. AARP supports commonsense policy reforms to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, end pay-for-delay deals that delay entry of generic drugs into the marketplace, and increase access to lower cost medications through safe prescription drug importation. As part of a larger set of priorities for protecting and strengthening the healthcare system, AARP boldly declared that any changes to the healthcare law must include solutions to address rising prescription drug costs. (more…)
We are pleased to announce that Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) recently introduced legislation aimed at lowering the high cost of prescription drugs for the 41 million seniors enrolled in Medicare. If enacted, S. 1688, The Empowering Medicare Seniors to Negotiate Drug Prices Act, would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate fair prescription drug prices under Part D of the Medicare program. The federal government spends far more on prescription drugs purchased for Medicare enrollees than it spends for Medicaid and the Veterans Administration because the current law prohibits Medicare from negotiating lower prices with pharmaceutical companies.
S. 1688 would eliminate the “non-interference” clause in Title XVIII of the Social Security Act, which expressly bans Medicare from negotiating drug prices. The language in S. 1688 is less restrictive than similar legislation, S. 41, also introduced by Sen. Klobuchar earlier this year. That legislation, S. 41, the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2017, would prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from establishing or requiring a fixed drug formulary for any prescription drug plan in Medicare; S. 1688 wisely omits this binding language.(more…)
The Prescription Justice coalition letter from last month, signed by a growing number of consumer, health and social justice organizations, supports S. 469/H.R. 1245, The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act of 2017, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT and Representative Elijah Cummings, D-MD. If enacted, this bill would allow individuals, pharmacies and wholesalers to import FDA-approved medications from Canada, and then, after two years, from other countries with equally rigorous systems for regulating the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals.
Prescription Justice also supports S. 64 /H.R. 1480, The Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2017, introduced by Senator John McCain, R-AZ and Representative Chellie Pingree, D-ME. This bill wouldallow for the personal importation of safe and affordable drugs from approved pharmacies in Canada. Prescription medications imported under this bill would be the same dosage, form, and potency as drugs in the U.S., but at a significant savings to Americans.
Recently, The Hill featured the Op-Ed, A tale of two drug bills — one proposed bill will worsen the drug prices crisis, by Gabriel Levitt, President of Prescription Justice. Mr. Levitt’s Op-Ed provides an insightful look at legislation targeting two distinct public health problems, but only one has the capacity to inflict further devastation from the public health crisis that is high drug prices.
The Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention Act of 2017 (STOP Act), introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R- OH) aims to stop the flow of the highly addictive synthetic opioid fentanyl from coming into the U.S. by requiring the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to obtain information about packages coming from foreign sources. Unlike private carriers such as UPS and FedEx, the USPS does not currently require advanced electronic customs data from much of the mail received at its International Mail centers.
The Brussels Principles underscore the importance of the international online marketplace as a lifeline of affordable medication for the millions of people forced to go without necessary treatment due to drug cost and availability.
On March 31st, 2017, Prescription Justice organized a panel for the RightsCon 2017 conference in Brussels, which addressed protecting online access to safe and affordable medication. The organizers of RightsCon just published their outcomes document in which Prescription Justice’s effort to bring together both medicines access and Internet freedom advocates was recognized.
At that conference, the participants discussed a set of draft principles pertaining to medication sales over the Internet and prescription drug importation. The prevailing position among the panelists was that initiatives funded by the pharmaceutical industry that affect access to medicines on the Internet were detrimental to the cause of prescription drug affordability.
While the intense focus in Congress last week was the passage of the American Healthcare Act, millions of Americans continue to struggle with the cost of prescription medications. In 2016, 45 million Americans did not fill a prescription because of cost, and a recent poll commissioned by Prescription Justice shows that 75% Americans agree with President Trump that they drug companies are getting away with murder.
Not just individual patients but federal and state governments face an uphill budget battle as well. Public programs like Medicare, Medicaid and the Department of Veteran's Affairs continue to grapple with dramatic price increases that are crippling their budgets.
Congress has introduced several bills in 2017 to address the crisis of high drug prices. Here’s a summary:
Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (HR 1776/S. 771)
On March 29, S. 771, The Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (Act), was introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and fifteen Democratic co-sponsors. A companion bill (HR 1776) was also introduced in the House by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) with four Democratic co-sponsors.
Prescription Justice’s president, Gabriel Levitt, organized a dynamic panel session to discuss the importance of online access to safe and affordable medicines at the RightsCon conference last month in Brussels, Belgium. Created and organized by Access Now, since 2011, RightsCon has become one of the world’s leading events covering the implications of the Internet on society. This past conference, it’s largest ever, brought together 1500 people from 100 countries, including human rights experts and activists, business leaders, technologists, engineers, investors, activists and government representatives; most who are there to promote an open Internet and digital rights globally. (more…)