11.07.19

Peters Highlights Michiganders’ Stories on Rising Prescription Drug Costs, Recent Efforts to Lower Prices on Senate Floor

Peters Also Discussed His Investigation into Prescription Drug Costs, Shortages

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) spoke on the Senate floor today to share the stories of Michiganders he met with recently at listening sessions across the state who are currently struggling to afford the prescription drugs they need. Peters also discussed the need for the Senate to take action and his investigation through the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee into the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, growing drug shortages and the risks to national security and public health.

“Too many Michiganders are struggling with rising prescription drug costs and the consequences can be life-threatening,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Families in Michigan and across the country are counting on us. Families should never be forced to choose between paying their bills or getting the medication they need, but sadly, that is a choice too many families face.”

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Click here for video of his remarks and below is the text as prepared for delivery:

“I rise today to discuss an issue that I hear from families all across Michigan: the rising cost of prescription drugs.

“Recently, I held roundtables in several communities across Michigan to hear directly from families, local health providers and medical professionals about the increasing cost of prescription drugs. I want to share a few of those stories:

“I heard from Diane in Grand Rapids, whose son Jared suffered a severe asthma attack that tragically resulted in his death. He was just 25 years old. Diane said her son had insurance, but it wasn’t enough, and he tried stretching out usage of his asthma medication to deal with ever-rising costs. Diane shared just how unimaginable her pain was to lose her child to a condition that should have been manageable with affordable, life-sustaining medications.

“I heard from Rachael in Greenville, who has three children with Type 1 diabetes, but insurance denied coverage for her children’s insulin, making it simply unaffordable. So, Rachael’s family drove across the border into Canada where she said they were able to purchase insulin for $71 per box, compared to about $600 for the exact same insulin in Michigan. Rachael is rightfully angry she needed to travel to another country simply to get her children the insulin that they needed to stay alive.

“Sheron from Detroit told me about the financial challenges of treating Sarcoidosis, a rare disease, while also fighting triple-negative breast cancer. Sheron said that insurance was going to charge her $5,000 for a medication she could easily take at home, but it would completely cover it only if she went to the hospital. The last thing Sheron wanted to do was trek to the hospital as she coped with the side effects of chemotherapy.

“And I heard from Jeanette from Burton, who had a nearly $500 per month co-pay for a prescription while undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer, but without the help of a charitable patient group she could not afford the medication. While working to get that assistance, she had to go without her prescription and could have suffered serious complications as a result.

“Unfortunately, these are not isolated stories and these are not isolated individuals. Too many Michiganders are struggling with rising prescription drug costs and the consequences can be literally life-threatening. Between 2012 and 2018, prices for top-selling brand name drugs in the U.S. have increased 68 percent, making critical medications out of reach for most families.

“The list price in 2017 for a one-year supply of Humira, the number one selling brand name drug that treats arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease was over $58,000. That is more than the annual median income for people in the state of Michigan. The price of insulin has spiked in recent years, growing by 55 percent since 2014. That’s simply outrageous and it is simply unacceptable.

“Guided by stories from Michigan families and medical professionals, I’m working to examine and tackle the rising cost of prescription drugs.

“Earlier this week, through my work as Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I announced I am conducting an investigation into the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs. I’m also investigating the growing shortages of critical medications affecting hospitals and patients throughout the country. Unaffordable prescription and hospital-administered drugs and the increasing number and length of drug shortages have become an economic, national security and public health crisis for Michigan as well as for the rest of the country.

“Through my investigation, I’m working to 1) identify solutions to address increasing drug costs, 2) evaluate the effect of drug shortages on patient care and 3) examine the national security implications of our growing reliance on drugs manufactured overseas, primarily in China and India.

“This investigation builds on some of my previous efforts, including my call for the Food and Drug Administration to share information on the Administration’s efforts to counter drug shortages, and my bill advancing in the Senate to lower health care costs for seniors through Medicare Part B.

“For many people in Michigan and across the country, being able to afford your medicine is a matter of life and death. And we must take action.

“We must allow, certainly, for safe drug importation from Canada. But let me be clear, going to Canada is not a solution. You need to be able to afford affordable, quality, safe prescription drugs in the United States. We must improve competition, end price gouging, increase price transparency and hold drug companies accountable. We must enable Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors. We must eliminate drug shortages to ensure that all patients can get the medication they need, when they need it. And we must work to bring more affordable generic medications to the market.

“Families in Michigan and across the country are counting on us. Families should never be forced to choose between paying their bills or getting the medication they need, but sadly, that is a choice that too many families are facing today.”

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