Applicants must support prescription drug affordability

The fall campaign season has arrived. This is when legislative and statewide candidates should begin to spell out solutions to the real problems that new Mexicans face every day.

It’s no secret that rising prices for everything from housing to groceries are hurting families. Improving access to affordable medicines is an issue that should be a priority for applicants to reduce costs.

In August, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, authorizing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies to help reduce the price of certain prescription drugs. This is a step in the right direction, but New Mexico can and should do more to close the loopholes left by federal legislation.

NMVC Action Fund is a nonprofit organization that offers policies that support concrete improvements in the well-being of New Mexico’s children, including early childhood and public education, health care, food security, and economic well-being.

Drug prices may not appear to be an issue affecting children. However, we know that children do better when the people they love can make ends meet, and high drug prices hurt their parents, grandparents, friends and neighbours.

An easy-to-argue issue for candidates is the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Council with a mandate to assess the cost of drugs, hold big pharma accountable, and negotiate more affordable prices for New Mexicans.

A council like this should have the power to help make prescription drugs more affordable for New Mexicans by looking at the entire drug supply chain, negotiating more affordable prices, and building on state efforts to reduce health care costs for all residents.

In the first seven months of this year alone, the pharmaceutical industry raised drug prices 1,186 times, according to a new report from Patients for Affordable Drugs. The rise in prices exceeds inflation. This steady increase in cost occurs for drugs intended to treat conditions such as leukemia, blood disorders, lupus and psoriasis. Nearly 90% of all price increases in 2022 were for branded drugs, which have the highest prices on the market.

Americans pay four times as much for the same drugs as people in other countries. According to a statewide survey, nearly half of New Mexicans skipped taking medication or did not fill a prescription due to cost concerns. This is a problem we can tackle.

The bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures released a report stating that a Prescription Drug Affordability Council is a sensible way to determine the cost of prescription drugs and to make drugs more affordable. In August, the Health and Human Services Legislative Committee committed to drafting a PDAB bill for the 2023 session. Now we need to get it passed.

It’s time for legislative and statewide candidates to stand up for New Mexico patients and consumers and commit to action. Establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Council will give New Mexico an independent advocate who can assess prescription drug costs and negotiate reasonable prices.

James Jimenez previously served as Executive Director of New Mexico Voices for Children, Chief of Staff to NM Governor Bill Richardson, and Secretary to the Cabinet of the NM Department of Finance and Administration. At the Legislative State Finance Committee, he served as an economist and supervisor of the Performance Audit Unit.

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