Prescription drugs are integral to our health care system and most medical treatments. People across Wisconsin depend on prescription drugs, whether in their everyday lives or for lifesaving treatments. And yet, recent years have seen the prices of many prescription drugs skyrocket. Prescription drug prices jumped 10.5 percent over in just the first six months of 2019–an increase four times greater than inflation.
High prices put essential drugs out of reach for many Americans. Nearly three-in-ten people in the United States report not taking medicine as prescribed because of the cost. This includes not filling a prescription, taking an inappropriate alternative treatment, and cutting pills in half or skipping doses.
Furthermore, an estimated quarter of people with diabetes lower or skip doses because they cannot afford the insulin that keeps them alive.
The consequences of these actions are dire. Nationally, lack of medication adherence accounts for up to half of all treatment failures and one-quarter of hospital and nursing home admissions.
While cost of the four most popular types of insulin tripled within a decade and forced patients to ration care, Eli Lily–the nation’s largest insulin producer–continued to reap billions of dollars in revenue. In 2018 alone, Eli Lilly brought in $9 billion in revenue from their diabetes medication while paying $0 in federal income taxes under the Trump tax law.
Drug companies are more interested in preserving their profits and monopoly power than our health and well-being. Drug companies spent $172 million on lobbying in 2018–more than any other industry–to protect their monopolies and protect their power to dictate prices. In fact, Trump’s new North American Free Trade Agreement deal (NAFTA 2.0) could raise drug prices on many widely used drugs, including vaccines and some newer cancer treatments, by preventing competition from generic drugs and handcuffing Congress’ ability to enact policies to reduce prices.
Prescription drug companies often justify their soaring prices with claims that investment in new, life-saving medicines costs money. But that claim is false. Big Pharma companies spend far more on marketing than they do on research and development. Instead, it is taxpayers like us who fund the development of new drugs. Taxpayer-funded research through National Institutes of Health contributed to every one of the 210 drugs approved between 2010 and 2016, and the U.S. federal government is the world’s largest funder of biomedical research.
Yet, many Americans cannot afford the life-saving medicine their tax dollars help to develop.
That’s why Citizen Action of Wisconsin is a proud member of the national Lower Drug Prices Now campaign. The campaign demands that Congress put people over Pharma profits by adopting comprehensive reform of the pharmaceutical industry.