Earlier this year President Trump called on lawmakers to come together to advance market-based, bipartisan drug pricing reform. And with good reason. Drug prices are out-of-control, putting much-needed medications out of reach for nearly half a million Mainers in 2017. And across the country, a recent survey found that 58 million Americans struggled to afford their medication as prescribed in 2019 due to cost.

Deborah Sanderson

Meanwhile, brand name drug companies have thumbed their noses at the mounting affordability crisis by continuing to hike prices and evading all responsibility. Already this year, Big Pharma has hiked prices on over 600 medications — nearly two times the rate of inflation — simply because they can. In fact, one study found that Big Pharma raised the price of seven of the most popular drugs in the country with no evidence that the drugs had been improved — accounting for an extra $5.1 billion burden on patients and taxpayers. And despite what the industry would have you believe, studies show that sky-high prices are driven by profit motivations, not increased investment in research and development.

At the same time, brand name drug companies employ a number of anti-competitive and blame game tactics to skirt responsibility and keep prices high. From charitable kick-back schemes to patent abuse, Big Pharma has proven that, without concrete action, the industry will continue to game the system in order to pad its bottom-line. And by spending a record $29 million on lobbying in 2019, Big Pharma is not afraid to spend whatever it takes to maintain the status quo.

Enough is enough. It’s time for lawmakers to join Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, by endorsing market-based, bipartisan solutions to hold Big Pharma accountable and lower prices for patients. And Mainers agree. Nearly three-quarters of Maine adults support bipartisan measures championed by Sen. Collins, that have won support from both sides of the aisle. It’s now up to others in Congress to do their job and ensure that these measures are quickly passed into law.

These solutions would mark an important first step toward tackling the crisis of out-of-control prescription drug prices. By keeping price increases in line with inflation, shedding a brighter light on Big Pharma’s obscure pricing practices, boosting competition through the increase utilization of biosimilars and providing much needed reform to Medicare Part D, these measures would deliver much needed relief for Maine patients, seniors and their families.

Seniors would especially benefit. The reforms to Medicare Part D would cap out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries and shift significant liability to Big Pharma in the catastrophic phase — which would disincentivize brand name drug companies from hiking prices. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that these measures would save Part D beneficiaries $32 billion per year in lower out-of-pocket costs and premiums.

The CBO also estimates that taxpayers would save a combined $100 billion per year in lower Medicare and Medicaid spending and that patients with commercial insurance plans could see significant savings.

Mainers need relief and Sen. Collins has answered the call. We need other lawmakers on Capitol Hill to lend their support so these measures make it to the president’s desk and are signed into law.

Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea represented the District 88 in the Maine House of Representatives from 2010 to 2018.

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