Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, member of the Senate Aging Committee, stood at the Regional Economic Community Action Program (RECAP) in Newburgh to call for a package of three bills to help reduce the cost of prescription drugs, and help ensure that everyone can access the medicine they need. Over the years, prescription drug costs have become increasingly unaffordable, particularly for older Americans — who account for one in five Orange County residents — who rely on Medicare yet still struggle to afford medications on a fixed income. Additionally, many people with disabilities rely on drug therapies to manage chronic conditions but have been overwhelmed by increasing prices. Drug manufacturers continue to increase the price of their drugs while one in four Americans remain unable to afford their medications. Nearly a third of adults say they have not taken their medicine as prescribed in the past 12 months due to costs. Senator Gillibrand’s call comes as Senate and House Democrats negotiate legislation to make health care and prescription drugs more affordable for Americans as the economy recovers.
“As New Yorkers face growing health challenges and economic hardship in the wake of the pandemic, they are being forced to make decisions between picking up their medications and buying groceries or keeping the lights on. It is unacceptable that many people have had to skip or ration the medications they need to stay healthy, while the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country are making tens of billions of dollars in profits,” said Senator Gillibrand. “As a member of the Aging Committee, reducing prescription drug prices for our seniors is one of my top priorities. Congress must take immediate action to ensure Americans can afford the medications they need and I will be fighting alongside my colleagues to get these provisions passed.”
“Health care is a right not a privilege and a vital part of health care is access and affordability,” said Charles Quinn, CEO of RECAP. “The price of prescriptions challenges both accessibility and affordability, and jeopardizes the health of people with low and moderate incomes. People should not have to choose between food and medicine. Senator Gillibrand’s bill will address this disparity and its passage will result in healthier individuals, families, and communities.”
“All Americans deserve to receive the medicine they need without having to choose between paying for care or paying for groceries,” said NYS Senator Skoufis. “I am grateful to Senator Gillibrand for fighting for access to safe and affordable prescription drugs. These efforts, along with my own work to keep costs down for everyday New Yorkers, are a huge step in the right direction.”
“Too many Americans are forced to choose between filling life-saving prescriptions and putting food on the table,” said NYS Assemblyman Jacobson. “I thank Senator Gillibrand for introducing these important bills. This legislation is long overdue and will deliver needed relief by ending price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies while ensuring our residents have access to the medications they need.”
“I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand for her support on these three bills to make prescription drugs affordable for everyday Americans. Senator Gillibrand’s pieces of legislation are even more critical at this time because we are not only amid a health care pandemic, we are in the middle of an economic pandemic. We are struggling nationwide and right here in the City of Newburgh. Alleviating the burden of deciding whether to pay for much-needed medication versus necessities like food or rent will be a huge lift for urban communities like Newburgh,” said Newburgh Mayor Torrance Harvey.
“I commend Senator Gillibrand’s efforts and the work she is doing to push through the Prescription Drugs Price Relief Act,” said City of Newburgh Councilwoman Ramona Monteverde. “I agree prescription drug prices are too high and we need to take action to lower them. By providing better access to affordable prescription drugs, we can help to ensure drug companies put patients before profits. The Prescription Drug Relief Act would bring much-needed relief to families and seniors, many who have had to make the impossible choice between paying for a life-saving drug and putting food on the table.”
“This package of legislation would make prescription drug prices more affordable for Americans and provide more options when purchasing life-saving medications. Due to increasing prices, many people struggle to pay for needed prescriptions. No family should have to decide between the medications they need and other necessities such as food, clothing and shelter,” said Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus.
The package of legislation includes:
- The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act. The bill would level the market for Americans purchasing prescription drugs by pegging the price in the United States to the median price in Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan.
- The Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act. The bill would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.
- The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act. The bill would allow patients, pharmacists and wholesalers to import safe, affordable medicine from Canada and other major countries.
Under current law, the Secretary of HHS is prohibited from negotiating lower drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D beneficiaries. In contrast, other government programs, like Medicaid and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are allowed to negotiate. According to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, Medicare paid twice as much for the same prescription drugs as VA in 2017.
In 2020, five of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. made $44.9 billion in profits. That same year, in the midst of a twin public health and economic crisis, drug makers raised their prices of more than 860 prescription drugs by 5%, on average. In 2018, the average annual cost of therapy for widely used specialty drugs was about $79,000. This is more than twice the median income for people on Medicare and more than three and half times the average Social Security retirement benefit.