Philadelphia Inquirer, Antoinette Kraus, For The Inquirer
Prescription drug pricing is reaching a crisis point.
A 2018 study showed that between 2012 and 2017, the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare increased nearly 10 times faster than the rate of inflation. And it continues to rise; the prices of more than 400 prescription drugs have already increased by an average of 5% in 2020. Americans are now spending more than double what we paid for our medications in the 1990s and much more than other developed nations. Annual spending on prescription drugs now exceeds $450 billion and is rapidly becoming one of the biggest cost drivers in our health-care system.
Meanwhile, while patients struggle to pay for their medicines, drug corporations are raking in profits. Between 2006 and 2015, 67% of drug companies increased their annual profit margins, some up to 20%. And their claims that drug prices are driven by innovation simply don’t add up; drug corporations routinely spend more than double their research and development budgets on advertising.
People throughout Pennsylvania are feeling the impact of this crisis. A recent study shows that two in three Pennsylvanians are concerned about the cost of prescription drugs, and many more are struggling to afford the prescription drugs they need, often cutting pills in half, skipping doses, leaving unfilled prescriptions at the pharmacy, or choosing between medications and necessities like food, rent, or utilities.
Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support action that will address the drug pricing crisis. Recent polling shows that nearly nine in 10 Pennsylvanians across party lines support a range of policy solutions that would lower prescription drug prices. With Washington in gridlock and the Senate unlikely to take up a recent House-passed bill that would take aim at high drug prices, it’s left to lawmakers in Harrisburg to put forward solutions.
Fortunately, a groundbreaking solution to the prescription drug pricing crisis has emerged. Last month, State Rep. Dan Frankel (D., Allegheny) introduced legislation that would directly tackle the high prices people are paying at the pharmacy.
The Prescription Drug Affordability Act — HB 2212 — would give both lawmakers and the public greater insight into how drugs are priced, investigate how specific drug prices impact Pennsylvanians, and create a mechanism to reduce what Pennsylvanians pay for their medications by creating a new entity to directly address high drug prices.