The author says the pharmaceutical industry should abide by the price-cutting requirements of the Inflation Reduction Act — not attempt to overturn them. (iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Last week, Medicare announced a list of ten drugs for lower drug price negotiations, kicking off a process that for the first time will require drug corporations to negotiate prices for some of the most expensive medicines in Medicare.
Under the new Medicare negotiations law, pharmaceutical companies will no longer have monopoly power to set unreasonable prices for critical medications and raise them anytime they want. This is major progress that will help everyday people, ensuring that they will no longer have to make the impossible choice between putting food on the table or filling a necessary prescription at the pharmacy.
As a Marine veteran, I’ve received access to life-saving medication with negotiated prices through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), where I receive treatment. I was honorably discharged after two years of service in Vietnam where a member of my platoon set off a landmine right behind me. The explosion killed him and damaged my feet gravely. Thankfully, doctors were able to save my feet, but only after 18 months in the hospital, several surgeries and extensive rehabilitation. The physical and psychological scars still remain.
I have struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder to this day, dealt with diminished mobility and the effects of Agent Orange exposure, and survived two bouts of prostate cancer. My health struggles led to drug dependence, homelessness, and trouble with the law, but I finally turned my life around when I got involved in community service and activist work.
For decades now, advocates like me have worked to duplicate the prescription drug price negotiations that make prescriptions affordable for veterans in other health care programs, especially Medicare, the nation’s largest purchaser of prescription medicines. The VA pays about half of what Medicare pays for the same medicines thanks to negotiated prices.
Now, thanks to the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the upcoming Medicare prescription drug negotiations will finally grant seniors and people with disabilities access to more affordable prices also. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced the first ten medications for price negotiation this week from among the program’s most expensive and most widely used prescriptions. Once the law is fully implemented, 5 to 7 million Medicare patients are expected to see lower drug costs in Part D. This is a great start to making affordable medicines more accessible for people who need them.
Americans pay two to three times more for most prescription drugs than consumers do in other developed nations because of drug corporations’ monopoly power to set and keep prices high. The five largest U.S. pharmaceutical companies reported combined earnings of $81.9 billion in 2022, an $8 billion increase from 2021. In fact, the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable sector of our economy.
But high profits have come at the expense of our health. Millions of patients are forced to ration medicine, skip doses, go into debt or go without medicine they need to treat diabetes or cancer because of sky high prices. The IRA’s drug pricing provisions will lower health costs for patients and save taxpayers billions. In fact, analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found the IRA drug pricing provisions will reduce the federal deficit by $237 billion from 2022 to 2031.
Drug corporations and their lobby group, PhRMA, will not give up their inflated profits without a fight. Eight corporations, primarily makers of the drugs named for negotiations, have filed lawsuits to overturn Medicare negotiations. Republican lawmakers have also filed bills in Congress to repeal the law.
But Americans want lower drug prices and we’re not giving up either. Seventy percent of people say that lowering drug costs is their highest health care priority. Drug companies have made record profits for decades by denying patients affordable prices on everything from insulin to cancer medications. But those days are over.
Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act to lower prices and make medicines affordable. For the health and safety of us all, drug companies should follow this law, not try to overturn it.
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