You don’t have a heart if the story of 14-year-old William Leachman doesn’t break it.
Guillaume has type 1 diabetes. This means he must take insulin every day to help his body convert food into energy or he will die. But a vial of insulin costs about $300 each, and Williams needs three a month. That’s $900 a month that he fears his insurance won’t cover when he turns 18.
Many adults with type 1 diabetes need five vials of insulin per month to stay alive. William has done his homework and is worried about his future. Many adults with type 1 diabetes skimp on their medications: skip doses or cut pills in half. They just can’t afford the full dose.
And the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) says the cost of insulin and other life-saving prescription drugs continues to rise.
It’s a uniquely American problem, according to PHAN, caused by greed at William’s expense. The advocacy group says Americans pay almost 3 times what people in other countries pay for the same drugs.
PHAN says pharmaceutical companies rake in billions of dollars in profits while the sick suffer. His research shows that in 2021, pharmaceutical companies raised the prices of more than 1,000 prescription drugs, and 90% of the increases were above the rate of inflation.
PHAN says the increases have made it impossible for thousands of people to afford their drugs during the pandemic. And the problem is only getting worse.
According to PHAN, one in two Pennsylvanians are concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs. One in five people reduce doses because they simply don’t have the money to do what the doctor ordered. And nine in 10 Pennsylvanians want something done now to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
This is an issue that cuts across all demographics and party lines. Pharmaceutical companies deserve to make a decent profit, but PHAN says there is no rhyme or reason to explain how they set prices. Everyone wants drug companies to make money to support the research and development of even better drugs. But PHAN’s research shows that pharmaceutical companies could lose $1 trillion in sales and still be the most profitable companies in the United States.
PHAN is calling on the state to appoint an independent agency to investigate prescription drug prices and find out why they are so high. We think it’s a good idea.
PHAN also asks the agency to oversee the operation of state pharmaceutical companies and offer recommendations to the General Assembly on how to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.
Three bills would do what PHAN is asking for in Pennsylvania.
Rep. Daniel Laughlin (R) introduced Senate Bill 579, the Pharmaceutical Transparency Act; and Michael J. Puskaric (R) introduced House Bill 321, calling for the same oversight and transparency in the prescription drug industry.
Rep. Dan Frankel (D) introduced House Bill 1722 to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Council.
We call on State Senator John DiSanto, chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee; State Rep. Tina Pickett (R), chair of the Insurance Committee; and State Representative Kathy L. Rapp, chair of the House Health Committee, to act urgently to remove these bills from their committees for a vote in the General Assembly. The lives of thousands of people like William depend on it.
William now has good insurance, subsidized by public programs to help children with health costs, but what happens in just four years when William turns 18? And what happens now to the sick and elderly in our state who are dividing the pills while the drug companies rake in the billions?
Pennsylvanians want something done to reduce the cost of drugs. State lawmakers need to do it now.
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