Frederick Isasi Testifies at Ways and Means Hearing on Drug Prices, Tells Congress: “You Created the Problem That Gives Pharma Monopoly Power — Fix It
Testimony Calls for Bipartian Solution to Steep and Spiraling Prescription Costs
Washington, D.C., March 7, 2019 – Today Frederick Isasi, Families USA executive director, testified at the Committee on Ways and Means Health Subcommittee’s hearing, “Promoting Competition to Lower Medicare Drug Prices.” The crux of Isasi’s remarks was that the nation’s prescription drug crisis lies in patent and market exclusivity abuses that allow pharmaceutical companies to jack up consumers’ costs at abandon.
“Congress created a system that gives government-granted exclusivity to drug makers. Over time, the pharmaceutical industry has focused less on creating innovative drugs that can save lives and more on doubling-down on high-powered lawyers to help them find loopholes, sue competitors, and generally abuse the spirit in which federal prescription drug laws were created. Simply put, Congress created this problem and time for action is long-past due,” Isasi said.
Expensive and climbing prescription drug costs plague families across the country, putting them at risk for poor health outcomes and threatening their financial security. Isasi reminded subcommittee members that voters spoke loudly in the 2018 midterm elections, with exit polls showing an astounding 82 percent of Republicans and 90 percent of Democrats want Congress to act make lowering prescription drugs a top priority.
“This is a bipartisan problem and it needs a bipartisan solution,” Isasi said.
Catherine Horine is waiting for Congress to act. She’s a 63-year-old lung transplant recipient and Medicare beneficiary from Wheeling, Ill., who finds herself struggling to avoid financial ruin.
“Every month I pay $1,000 for my prescriptions — that’s exactly half of my monthly income. Congress must do something. It should not break me to stay alive. It should not cost me everything I have to stay alive,” Horine said.
Horine, who take 36 pills every day, was diagnosed with a rare lung disease in November 2013 and received a life-saving lung transplant in November 2014. She later sold her home and moved in with her parents to reduce her living expenses. Yet, she still struggles to stay afloat financially.
“I just don’t understand why medications — especially like some of the pills I take that have been around for decades — have to be so expensive,” Horine said. “And people are rationing insulin. It just makes no sense.”
Families USA is a strong supporter of a bicameral bill written by Committee Chairman Doggett (D-TX), the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act, which would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies and to authorize generic competition when negotiations fail. Such a bill would greatly benefit Horine, and the scores of Americans who regularly juggle medical care costs and basic needs such as food and housing. Chairman Doggett introduced the bill last February with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
According to results from a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, nearly 3 in 10 people across the country skip doses or forgo filling prescriptions altogether due to high costs. Survey results also point to the public’s desire, across party lines, for Congress to implement policies to lower prescription drugs.
Horine said, “It’s so hard to know what my future holds. I hate the thought of having to use money from my mom’s retirement account.”
- Frederick Isasi, JD, MPH, Executive Director, Families USA
- Catherine Horine, Medicare beneficiary and lung transplant recipient who pays half of her monthly income to prescription drug costs