Medicines don’t work if we can’t afford them

I was troubled by the false choice presented in a recent opinion column by Sabrina Walker. Patients do not have to choose between lowering drug prices and protecting pharmaceutical innovation.

Kris Garcia

The drug pricing reforms currently being considered by the US Senate will help keep the innovation we need affordable.

Like Sabrina, I am a patient dependent on expensive drugs that have transformed my life. I live with four bleeding disorders, asthma and several allergies. Having multiple bleeding disorders, including hemophilia, leaves me in a constant state of uncertainty.

I have to be extremely careful because any emergency can quickly turn into a health and financial crisis for me.

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Since blood clotting is more difficult with my bleeding disorders, I rely on Humate-P for emergencies. The infusions of this medication allow my blood to cauterize to prevent excessive bleeding.

But the astronomical price of this drug only urgently increases stress. Each vial of Humate-P costs $10,000 and for each infusion I need four vials.

And, like Sabrina, I understand how transformative and life-saving innovative medicine is for patients like us. Without Humate-P, I probably wouldn’t survive many simple injuries, let alone the necessary surgeries.

But I also know personally that high drug prices put huge barriers between a patient and their drugs – drugs don’t work if we can’t afford them. High prices keep Americans from daily access to their medications.

More than a quarter of all US voters say they or a family member have had trouble paying for their medications in the past year. The percentage of Coloradans rationing or going without prescription drugs is even higher.

High prices not only cost patients huge sums, but also harm our health and our lives. Over the next decade, more than a million seniors could die prematurely within the next decade because they cannot afford to pay for their prescriptions.

Companies often keep their prices high with patent gimmicks, which means that new drugs and rising prices don’t always represent true innovative breakthroughs that benefit patients.

Take my EpiPens, for example. Although this drug came on the market in 1939, the price kept rising during the time I used them, increasing by more than 700% in 15 years. These price increases exceeded inflation despite increased competition and no clinical improvement in the drug. The drug is the same drug today with its higher price than it was eight decades ago when it was invented.

As a result of these price increases, a two-pack of my EpiPens now costs over $600, forcing me to go without this much-needed medication.

The drug pricing reforms the Senate is now considering would provide significant relief to patients like me, while rewarding innovation. The provisions would allow Medicare to negotiate lower prices for many expensive drugs, while continuing to allow drug companies to set introductory prices and have up to 13 years before prices are eligible for negotiation. of Medicare.

In addition, the reforms would prevent price gouging by pharmaceutical companies by capping price increases at the rate of inflation. For Medicare beneficiaries, outgoings would be capped at $2,000 per year and smoothed out each month to give them affordable and predictable copayments. And for patients on insulin, monthly copayments would be capped at $35 per month.

The plan further protects innovation by evaluating a drug’s clinical effectiveness when determining negotiated prices, so the government can reward truly innovative drugs that help patients. This would spur innovation while helping more patients pay for their prescriptions, which is why 90% of Colorado voters want Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.

For me, these reforms would help bring predictability and consistency to the cost of my medications. Protecting drugs like my Humate-P and EpiPens from price gouging by capping Big Pharma’s price gouging would give me and so many others peace of mind.

We don’t have to choose between innovation and lower drug prices. We can, and will have, both once the Senate passes these reforms by way of reconciliation.

Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, along with the other 48 Democratic senators, support drug pricing reforms. It’s time for Congress to deliver on its promise to give patients the innovative, affordable medicines we need.

Kris Garcia is a father of three children and lives in Denver. Twitter: @Krisfgarcia

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