I am a grateful patient.
Grateful that my life may have been saved by medical innovation. Grateful for the hard work of medical researchers and physicians who develop cures and treatments for those of us with chronic illnesses. We thank the policy makers who strive to create an environment in which new drugs and treatments can be developed safely and quickly.
And eternally grateful for having access to the treatments that allowed me not only to live, but also to continue my career as a placekicker for the San Diego Changers when I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in my sophomore season, then again when I got hepatitis C from a blood transfusion.
Through innovative treatments, I have been able to benefit my family and contribute to my community in San Diego and beyond. Others deserve to have a similar experience, but legislation currently pending in Congress threatens to put that experience out of reach for countless patients in San Diego and across the country.
The legislation in question is called House Resolution 3, or the Reduced Drug Costs Act. Proponents of the proposal claim that it will reduce the costs of prescription drugs so that treatments are accessible to more patients. This is a laudable goal of course, but in reality it is not what HR 3 will achieve.
Members of Congress should join with San Diego Rep. Scott Peters in rejecting HR 3 as written and returning to the drawing board to find patient-centered solutions that will truly address affordability issues without risk access.
There is no doubt that prescription drugs can be expensive and in some cases prohibitive. Usually, this fact is linked to the extremely high cost of bringing new and innovative treatments to the people who need them. Developing just one new drug can cost hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. And the drug development process is risky, with barely 12% of drugs in development reaching the market.
Yet reducing the costs of prescription drugs is an essential part of meaningful health care reform that must be continued and ultimately achieved. Unfortunately, HR 3 is not the answer and will end up trading one negative consequence for another. In some cases, this consequence will make the difference between life and death.
HR 3 proposes that the United States tie the price of prescription drugs in that country to the cost of drugs in six other countries. At first glance, this looks like a good deal – why shouldn’t Americans pay less like other countries do? The answer lies in ensuring full access to prescription drugs. HR 3 referenced countries do not have it.
Patients in the countries that HR 3 seeks to emulate simply do not have access to prescription drugs like we do in the United States. While nearly 90% of new drugs launched between 2011 and 2018 are available to American patients, only 36% are available to them in Australia, 50% in France and 59% in the United Kingdom. And on average, cancer patients in those countries wait 18 months to access cancer drugs after they become available to American patients.
Under HR 3, patients’ hope that an effective treatment or cure is imminent will be dashed. From experience, I wouldn’t be here today if a policy like HR 3 had been implemented during my first diagnosis.
Yes, I am a grateful patient, and I want to stay that way while helping others become grateful patients as well. The outcome of HR 3 will run counter to these goals and to ongoing efforts to make medicines more accessible to all.
Urge all Congress to pay attention to the negative consequences of HR 3 and work together for healthcare reform that increases access while continuing to foster hope and gratitude.
Rolf Benirschke had an illustrious 10-year career with the San Diego Chargers before founding the Grateful Patient Project to provide a platform for patients to share their stories of gratitude for healthcare providers, medications, procedures. and the institutions that have supported them through illness and changed their lives.