Prescription drug costs are skyrocketing. It's time for Congress to act
by Rep. Greg Stanton
It was a long time ago, but I remember like it was yesterday: My parents were on the verge of bankruptcy as they drained their savings to pay for the health care costs of my 11-year-old sister, who was battling a life-threatening illness.
Many years later, Arizona families still suffer the same fate. One in four Americans say they ration or skip their medication because of the cost of prescription drugs, and 1 in 3 saw their prescription prices go up last year.
It feels like America’s prescription drug system is broken, but the truth is much worse: It’s rigged so that Big Pharma gets its way. It’s rigged because some Washington politicians have perpetuated a corrupt deal for years, taking millions of dollars in campaign cash in exchange for blocking legislation that puts Big Pharma’s record profits at risk.
Just recently, Big Pharma bankrolled millions of dollars of television advertisements on behalf of politicians just as those same politicians said they oppose allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower costs on drug prices. Coincidence? Certainly not.
I pledged to fight Big Pharma. We moved a bill
This corrupt system means that Americans pay some of the highest prices of any country in the world for prescription drugs.
It especially hurts Arizona.
When I ran for Congress in 2018, I made it clear that I would always be on the side of Arizona families – not Big Pharma. That’s why I pledged never to take a dime from the prescription drug companies.
I refuse to be a Big Pharma Pawn, and I’ve even taken them on.
In the House Judiciary Committee, I’ve pushed forward anti-trust legislation to promote competition and innovation within the prescription drug industry, prevent price-gouging and make life-saving medicines more affordable.
The House passed the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would help level the playing field for American patients and taxpayers – but, predictably, the bill was filibustered and died in the Senate.
Medicare should be allowed to negotiate
Now, Congress has the opportunity to do something bigger to deliver a fair bargain for Arizonans by allowing Medicare to use its immense clout to negotiate lower prices on life-saving prescription drugs.
It’s a commonsense solution that was supported by the late Sen. John McCain and was one of the cornerstones of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better agenda before Senate negotiators stripped it out.
Negotiating drug prices – and extending those savings across our health care system – makes sense. It will lower prices for private insurers and employer health care for companies large and small, and according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Arizonans could see a savings by more than 50% on some medications.
For those concerned about our nation’s budget, consider this: The plan would cut federal spending by $456 billion and increase revenues by $45 billion over the next decade.
It's time to change this rigged system
Here in Arizona, we pay three, four and sometimes 10 times more for lifesaving prescription drugs compared to other developed countries. From 2007 to 2018, drug companies increased list prices on prescription drugs by 160%.
And just last year, the top five Big Pharma companies made a combined $51 billion in profit.
It’s not too late to get it right and for us to finally change this rigged system.
It’s time for everyone in Congress, especially those who represent Arizona, to look in the mirror and think about who they’re really serving.
We owe it to families going through tough times, those forced to make the impossible choices – families just like mine – to do what’s right.
Greg Stanton is a United States congressman representing Arizona's 9th Congressional District, which includes all of Tempe and parts of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler.