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Virginians Call on Congress to Regulate Prescription-Drug Costs


Thursday, April 7, 2022   

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Virginians have signed nearly 104,000 petitions urging Congress to lower drug costs.

Virginia residents have signed nearly 104,000 petitions urging Congress to lower prescription drug prices. The petitions were delivered to Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine Tuesday, just months after pharmaceutical companies raised the prices of 800 prescription drugs.

The American health care company GoodRx reports the average cost of prescription drugs has risen by about 2.5% since the pandemic began.

David DeBiasi, associate state director of advocacy for AARP Virginia, said the cost of prescription drugs has significantly outpaced the average inflation rate in recent years.

"If consumer prices had risen as fast as drug prices had over the last 15 years, a gallon of gas would now cost over $12 and a gallon of milk would be over $13," DeBiasi emphasized.

Pharmaceutical companies argued the high costs support research and development on new prescription drugs, but DeBiasi pointed out America's tax dollars actually fund a significant amount of such work.

A 2020 report from the Institute for New Economic Thinking found taxpayer dollars went into every new drug approved by federal regulators between 2010 and 2019, and the National Institutes of Health spent $230 billion to support drug development during the same time period.

Polling by AARP and the Kaiser Family Foundation found both Republican and Democratic voters supported allowing the feds to negotiate prescription-drug costs. A measure to do so passed the U.S. House of Representatives last November, but hit a roadblock in the Senate.

DeBiasi noted high drug costs disproportionately impact seniors who typically take multiple drugs to maintain their health.

"We're hearing from them every day that they've got to figure out how to pay for their medicines," DeBiasi reported. "It's too high, we're paying three times the cost of what other industrial nations are paying for the same drugs."

Last week, the House passed bipartisan legislation to cap out-of-pocket costs for insulin at $35 per month. The New York Times reports the proposal's future in the Senate is murky, as Democrats have not been able to gather the 10 Republican votes necessary to get the bill through a filibuster in the evenly-split chamber.

Disclosure: AARP Virginia contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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