Coauthored with Daniel Savickas of FreedomWorks. This op-ed was originally published at The Hill on January 3, 2018.
Primary Plasma Cell Leukemia is one of the rarest and most aggressive forms of Multiple Myeloma. It only affects 150 patients in the U.S. per year, but this is the reality that befell Paul Kleutghen of St. James, N.C. Paul, a career veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, now has to take daily chemotherapy, and a regiment of three different drugs.
Paul’s daily chemotherapy costs $750 per day and has a Medicare co-payment of $575 for a three-week cycle of drugs. Luckily, Paul is making it by financially, but for other individuals, and families, these costs are unrealistic, and could amount to a death sentence. Something has to change.
There are very few things, when it comes to politics, upon which most Americans can agree. However, the need to lower prescription drug prices is one of these rare breeds. One would think that, with this bipartisan agreement, a common sense solution could be enacted.
Such a solution does exist, and it comes in the form of the CREATES Act. As one would expect, the measure is drawing support from all reaches of the political spectrum. Its Senate sponsors include fixtures of the conservative movement, like Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas). It also includes stalwart Democrats, like Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
This legislation helps lower prescription drug prices without instituting big government price controls or antitrust enforcement. It eliminates some loopholes that brand pharmaceutical companies have been using to prevent generic competition from gaining access to the market. It also gives generics legal recourse to obtain the samples they need to gain FDA approval. It is a free market approach to lowering prices for patients and caregivers across the nation.
Despite the far-reaching support and wide range of benefits, no action has been taken on the CREATES Act. It has been just over 11 months since the bill was introduced. Part of the reason for this inaction is the smear campaign being run by Big Pharma against the bill. This disinformation is being spread by interest groups and advocacy organizations on both sides of the aisle.
Now, it seems Democrats are trying to turn the frustration over this inaction into anger towards President Trump. President Trump promised in his State of the Union address to fix the “injustice” of high drug prices. However, there is no reason this needs to become a partisan issue for either side ahead of any election. Instead, it should actually be fixed. Instead of using patients and caregivers as campaign slogans, help them.
Not only is there the aforementioned bipartisan support, but the support of the public is behind moving this forward. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation last month showed that 52 percent of people surveyed thought lowering drug prices should be a “top priority.” They didn’t say it should merely be addressed. They said it should be a top priority. That’s how important this is to American families. Another Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 80 percent think that current drug prices are unreasonable and 72 percent think the pharmaceutical industry has too much influence in Washington. They’re not wrong.
Congressional leadership failed to deliver on substantive health care reform last year. The CREATES Act is a common sense measure that makes sense both on its merits and politically. If leadership wants to show it is serious about improving the quality of life for American families, and ensuring that hard-working Americans can keep more of their earnings, allowing a vote on the CREATES Act is a no-brainer.
We are less than a year and a half removed from a presidential election that saw President Trump elected on the promise of “draining the swamp” and reducing the influence of special interests on our political process. If our elected leaders continue to allow big pharmaceutical companies to manipulate our laws to give themselves monopolies and to squeeze every penny out of Americans’ pockets, this will constitute a massive breach of trust with the American people, and each one of them will deserve the electoral reckoning that will surely come their way.
Jason Pye is the vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks. Daniel Savickas is the legislative outreach manager for FreedomWorks.