Addressing higher drug costs

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, September 17, 2019

As a pharmacist, I have seen firsthand the struggle Kentucky families face when it comes to paying high prices for their prescription medications.

The average annual cost of brand-name drugs has more than tripled in the last decade, jumping from $1,868 in 2006 to $6,798 in 2017, with drug costs increasing four times faster than the rate of general inflation.

One life-saving drug, Insulin, used by many of the 30.3 million Americans who have diabetes, increased in cost by 64% since January 2014. This is especially disheartening because nearly 80,000 Americans die every year from diabetes — more deaths than from breast cancer and AIDS combined. Therefore, I have introduced House Bill 105 to set requirements to keep a covered insulin drug prescription from exceeding $100 for a 30-day supply.

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This would ensure that the estimated 500,000 Kentuckians who suffer from diabetes and may need insulin to survive do not have to choose between their medication and putting food on the table or gas in the car. We need to ensure that life-saving drugs, like insulin, are available and affordable to all Kentuckians.

Nationwide, we pay the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world — typically, two to three times more than what patients in Canada and the United Kingdom pay for the exact same drug from the same manufacturer. At the federal level, Congress should legalize the safe importation of cheaper prescription drugs sold in other countries, as long as they meet the high safety standards set by our Food and Drug Administration. Americans should have the same opportunity to buy less expensive drugs that is enjoyed by citizens of other countries.

Another driver of higher drug costs is that big pharmaceutical companies have figured out ways to manipulate our laws to prevent generic drug manufacturers from producing cheaper versions of drugs, even after the patents for those drugs have expired. Such loopholes make a mockery of the free enterprise system that helps keep costs down in other industries.

A bill in Congress called the CREATES Act would put an end to some of these tactics used by Big Pharma, thereby allowing lower-priced generic drugs to be made and sold to consumers. The CREATES Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives and has dozens of bipartisan Senate cosponsors, and it ought to be allowed to come up for a vote and pass on its merits.

The skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs is a critical issue here in Kentucky and for millions nationwide. By enacting these solutions at the state and federal levels, policymakers can make life-saving drugs more affordable.

Danny Bentley is a pharmacist and state representative from Greenup County.