Tracker Pixel for Entry

Unaffordable Prescription Drugs

Letters to the Editor | March 20th, 2021

To the editor,

Five years ago, I nearly lost my life to leukemia because I couldn’t afford my medication. Even though my doctors warned me the cancer would return if I didn’t take the medicine, I did not fill my prescription because I couldn’t afford the $2,400 a month co-pay. Luckily, I found the same medicine at a more affordable cost of $680 a month through a Canadian pharmacy.

My story is shockingly common. Surveys have found that one in three adults did not take a medication as prescribed because of the price. There have been several high profile stories of people dying because they could not afford insulin. No one should be forced to make these horrible choices. That is why I share my story and have been volunteering with AARP to urge both our state and federal legislators to take action to lower prescription drug prices.

For decades, drug companies have raised drug prices with impunity. The average annual cost of widely used brand name prescription drugs more than quadrupled between 2006 and 2018.

For too long, drug companies have been price-gouging seniors and hardworking Americans. Consider insulin, used to treat diabetes, which often costs hundreds of dollars per month. Insulins are hardly new to the market. They were invented nearly a century ago, yet modern formulations remain under patent thanks to drug makers manipulating the system.

Insulins are far from the only example of drugs with high and growing prices. For more than a decade, brand-name drug price increases have exceeded inflation by two-fold to more than 100-fold. Launch prices are skyrocketing as well. We are now seeing drugs enter the market with seven-figure price tags.

Some drug manufacturers claim that high drug prices are needed to support innovation. However, research has consistently demonstrated no correlation between drug prices and innovation. Further, more than three-quarters of drug patents awarded in recent years were for existing drugs that had been recycled or repurposed.

The root cause of the problem is clear: the high prices of prescription drugs are set by pharmaceutical companies when they first come on the market, subsequently increasing year after year.

Drug manufacturers’ outrageous pricing behavior has real consequences for people like me. Some trek to Canada, while others risk their lives by rationing or skipping doses. A recent survey by AARP found that 44 percent of North Dakotans who stopped taking a prescribed medicine did so due to cost. This staggering number hinders our ability to improve health outcomes without a doubt.

It is not just patients being affected by drug company pricing practices: each of us is already paying for skyrocketing drug prices. We pay not only at the pharmacy counter, but through higher insurance premiums and higher taxes we pay to fund programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Americans over 65 are hit especially hard. Enrollees in Medicare’s prescription drug program take an average of more than four prescriptions, and their average annual income is around $26,000. One in three Americans has not taken a medication as prescribed because of the cost.

Meanwhile, drug companies are fighting for the status quo and blocking needed improvements to the system that could bring relief to seniors, families and small businesses. Pharmaceutical industry lobbyists are at the N.D. State Capitol telling legislators that more affordable drugs will harm consumers.

There are four bills before the North Dakota Legislature that offer solutions.

House Bill 1032 is an important building block for other legislative efforts that can more directly address prescription drug costs. This transparency bill would require pharmaceutical companies to provide information about how a drug is priced, and to justify large price increases.

Senate Bill 2209 would allow for the safe importation of prescription drugs from Canada. Senate Bill 2170 would allow the state to “import” drug prices instead of the actual drugs. And Senate Bill 2212 would require a legislative interim study on prescription drug pricing. All three bills would begin to help lower the cost of prescription drugs for North Dakotans.

The simple truth is medications do not work if patients cannot afford them. It is far past time we put an end to drug companies’ anti-competitive behavior.

We cannot afford to continue to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. Thankfully, the North Dakota Legislature has an opportunity to help North Dakotans with the passage these four important pieces of legislation.

Roger Roehl

LHalvorson@aarp.org

Mandan ND, 19 March 2021

Recently in:

Growing Together Opens New GardenBy Annie Prafckehttps://www.facebook.com/annie.prafcke20 May 2021On April 15th, Growing Together held a groundbreaking for the opening of its newest gardens at Gethsemane Cathedral. The space, which…

By Michael M. Millermichael.miller@ndsu.edu17 June 2021The Lehr Tabernacle near Lehr, N.D., celebrates its 100th Centennial with events on June 18-20, 2021. The Tabernacle, also known as Prairie Bible Camp, was featured in an…

2021 Summer Calendar Toby KeithMay 21, 7pmBismarck Event Center, 315 SOUTH 5TH STREET BISMARCKTickets $25-$175, pre-party starts at 5pm.Heart and Soul May 22, 9pmThe Aquarium, 226 N BroadwayR & B, Smooth Jazz, Funk, Neo-Soul and…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021Our opinion: Let’s work together instead of against each other.Think of where we are now in comparison to last year. Think of what we’ve learned since and how this is affecting our…

Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com29 July 2021This Is About the Religious-Rich-QAnon-White Supremacist-Trumplican CultThere are hundreds of thousands of cults in countries and societies around the world that have played or are playing…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021With Grand Forks being a hop skip and a cruise away from Fargo-Moorhead, our neighbors to the north have some great dining options. Whether you’re planning on spending a weekend or…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021“We have a guy that's been involved with the show for many years as a landlord and knew what it was like in the heydays. So he knows where he wants to take it.” says WE Fest General…

by Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.com24 June 2021Mariem Perez Riera’s “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” Stops in Theaters Before Date with “American Masters”On the heels of criticism for defending…

Alicia Underlee Nelson  alicia@hpr1.comDowntown scored a new mural from The Greetings Tour, a project that aims to create a mural in the style of…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…