Washington, DC — Today, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) joined health care advocates and Protect Our Care for a virtual roundtable on lowering drug costs and keeping meaningful Medicare negotiation in the final Build Back Better Act. Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring relief to patients struggling to afford their medications. During today’s event, storytellers from across the country shared what’s at stake for them if lawmakers fail to act.
The roundtable comes after Democrats announced a framework for the Build Back Better Act that fails to include any measures to lower prescription drug prices. While Big Pharma continues to lobby against action to lower drug prices for patients, Democratic leadership have pledged to include Medicare negotiation in the final bill.
“We’re in this fight because too many Americans are struggling to access their medications,” said U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). “It is more expensive to get prescription drugs in our country than in other countries, even though it’s our taxpayers that have funded so much of the research in the past five years. That’s why I have been spearheading these efforts to let Medicare negotiate since I’ve been in the Senate. It’s common sense policy.”
“The fight is not over to stand up to Big Pharma and put patients over profits,” said Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach. “It is unconscionable that millions of families are forced to choose between the medications they need to survive and paying for other necessities like food or rent. We must meet this moment and deliver on the needs of families nationwide by giving Medicare the power to negotiate for lower drug prices.”
“Legislation like Medicare negotiation is going to save lives,” said Mindy Salango, Type 1 Diabetic and patient storyteller from West Virginia. “That is what is at stake not only in West Virginia, but across the country. We need our leaders to step up and speak for us and help us because that’s what we voted for. That’s what we put them in office for. And this bill is completely across party lines. Diabetes didn’t ask me if I was a liberal or conservative when it decided to enter my life. People want it, we need it.”
“I suffer from systemic lupus. In order to keep it under control, you need medications. There was one medication that was $3,000 a month, I cannot afford it. And when you’re on a fixed income, it blows your budget,” said Beatriz Morrison, a patient storyteller from Arizona. “There’s a lot of people out there in my neighborhood, in our country, that have to forego medications — it just isn’t right. I have a senator that doesn’t want to help us. [Senator Sinema] said she was going to help us, and she doesn’t seem to want to. A lot of people are out there dying.”
“I’ve been a nurse for 37 years, 12 of those years I’ve worked with the high-risk epilepsy population, who often need three to four medications to remain with controlled seizures. I had the heartwrenching experience of losing a patient who was 26 years old. Like many patients, Jay was unable to afford medication to treat his seizures, and it left him with nowhere to turn.” said Rachelle Compton, a nurse from California. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me that this is allowed in America. People’s lives are actually lost due to the pharmaceutical situation that we have here. It’s maddening and it’s really sad.”
“I’m a community pharmacist in Teaneck, New Jersey, and every single day in my practice, customers come to me complaining about the cost of prescription drug prices,” said Michael Fedida, community pharmacist and pharmacy owner of J&J Pharmacy in New Jersey. “The 1500 lobbyists that are in Washington seem to have much more power than the entire Senate and Congress. It’s just so frustrating that it’s become a game of just money. People don’t seem to care about people’s lives and the quality of life that people are entitled to in this country.”
“Pre-COVID, I didn’t have to think about my medical bills. I didn’t have to think about how I was going to pay for prescriptions. Through COVID, we ended up closing most of our businesses. I suffer from multiple autoimmune disorders and have several other illnesses, and now I have to think about ‘Oh, am I going to be able to pay for this $2,000 medication this week? Am I going to be able to pay for this $300 item,’” said Himali Patel, small business owner and patient storyteller from Georgia. “It’s up to the powers that be to go ahead and fight for our people to do better and do right by us.”