The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act is the type of legislative reform that America needs to reduce our spiraling national prescription drug bill. Here’s why.
Medicare Parts B and D, together representing the nation’s largest prescription drug program, help cover drug costs for approximately 55 million people. While that population represents just a fraction of 1% of the world, their Medicare drug bill in 2014 was $143 billion or just under 15% of the world’s total pharmaceutical market of that year (about $1.06 trillion according to IMS Health). Even at that level of expenditure, millions of older Americans continue struggling to fill their prescriptions.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease very common in the United States and worldwide. The disease is characterized by a narrowing of the airways in the lungs that is treatable with various medications and avoiding environmental factors that trigger asthma attacks. When patients don’t take prescribed medications to treat their asthma the consequences can be deadly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2010 asthma accounted for 3,404 deaths, 439,400 hospitalizations, 1.8 million emergency room visits, and 14.2 million physician office visits. Drug costs are one of the main reasons people are not taking their asthma medications.
About four million Americans import medication for personal use each year because of high drug costs, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Their actions, under most circumstances, are technically illegal, but not something over which the government prosecutes individuals. The law, however, is unjust and unfair and should be reformed so that people who buy medication from a pharmacy in a different country are not, technically, criminally liable. Think about it. The medication you take is 90% cheaper in a different country and you can’t afford it domestically. It’s available for import by mail from a licensed pharmacy that you can access on the Internet. Why should the act of importing it be illegal?