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Letter to the Editor – Scott Lemley

By Staff | Jul 14, 2021

Editor, Tyler Star News:

With an increase in pandemic induced medical needs, combined with a rise in unemployment and the accompanying loss of health insurance, this past year has made it painfully clear just how important affordable medication is. Every day in this country, hard working Americans are forced to pay nearly four times what citizens in other wealthy countries pay for identical medication. This reality means that too many of our family, friends, and neighbors are forced to make the inhumane choice between expensive prescriptions and other everyday necessities like rent and groceries. However, there is a simple solution: Congress can allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

The harsh reality is that Americans are dying because they can’t afford the medication they need, and if nothing is done, more will follow. In January of this year alone, nearly 800 drugs were subject to price hikes, and with prices rising by an average of 5 percent, 100 percent of all hikes were above the rate of inflation. A recent study found that if the price of medication continues to rise at this rate, price-driven non-adherence to drug therapy will be a leadingcause of death in this country, resulting in over 1.1 million patient deaths over the next 10 years.

What makes this reality even more frustrating is the fact that taxpayers are responsible for funding the majority of pharmaceutical drugs available on the market today. The National Institute of Health, an institution funded by taxpayer dollars, contributed to every single one of the 356 new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration between 2010 and 2019. And yet, Americans are still forced to pay a premium for potentially life-saving medication.

Here in West Virginia, this issue is especially pertinent. According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, our state has the highest rate of arthritis in the country, the second highest rate for diabetes, and ranks third for overall cancer prevalence. This means that for many of our states’ residents, the high price of prescription medication is very personal, and the consequences are all too real.

Sadly, nearly 387,000 West Virginia residents could not pay for their medicine or drugs in the last year. To make matters worse, the working-class and senior communities are often hardest hit by these high prices. As a state that’s built on working-class values and whose very foundation is rooted in these communities, it is shameful to see them left by the wayside.

Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices on behalf of the American people has the potential to drastically change this reality.

Such a policy change would prevent predatory price gouging and ensure that West Virginians can purchase the medication they need at a fair and affordable price.

The support for this type of reform is overwhelming. Nearly 80 percent of Americans believe the price of medications are unreasonable, and only 25 percent trust pharmaceutical companies to sell their products at a fair price. In West Virginia in particular, 82 percent of voters support Medicare negotiation.

Given the importance of this issue for the hardworking men and women of our state, I am hopeful that lawmakers like Senator Joe Manchin, who has committed to reducing the price of prescription drugs for working-class families in West Virginia, will push for medicare negotiation to be passed into law this year.

Sincerely, Scott Lemley