Relief from high prescription prices is nearing

Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor

Amid the recent chaos of the holiday season, a pending impeachment trial and the potential for a major conflict in the Middle East, it can be all too easy to overlook the last bills introduced to the Senate in the final days of 2019. After years of petitioning, the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act of 2019 is finally picking up speed in congress.

As many American families can attest to, prescription drug prices in the U.S. have soared in recent years. However, the cost of producing these drugs have not risen at the same speed as the out of pocket price.

Since 2014, a name brand EpiPen, owned by Mylan Pharmaceuticals, has more than doubled in price; the retail cost for a two-pack of EpiPens is currently close to $700. Although a generic version of the drug was released in 2018 at roughly $150 per two-pack, the new drug is also owned by Mylan Pharmaceuticals.

This product provides life-saving doses of epinephrine to people experiencing potentially deadly allergic reactions and anaphylactic shock. It is not a luxury item that should be reserved only for the wealthy. Severe allergies are not a choice and are in no way indicative of personal health failures, yet large pharmaceutical companies, like Mylan, choose to charge their customers unimaginable fees for vital medication.

This often places low-income families in extremely difficult situations, frequently having to choose to allocate money to life-saving medication or other necessities like food, clothing or housing. No family should be placed in a position where their child cannot receive necessary medication because of its price.

However, pharmaceutical companies often argue that their high prices are needed to fund ground-breaking research and ensure the quality and safety of their medications.

This could not be farther from the truth. The profit margins for Mylan are astronomical. Despite its bank-breaking price tag, Mylan employees have reported that a standard EpiPen only costs about $30 to produce.

With that excessive profit margin, Mylan reported their 2018 total revenues reached $11.43 billion. Unfortunately, as industry trends show, the majority of that revenue was spent on high executive salaries and marketing — not research.

As recent as 2016, large drug companies have been spending nearly double on marketing than on research. Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest drug companies in America spent over $17.2 million dollars on marketing while only spending $8.2 million on research.

While these companies present themselves as cutting-edge medical pioneers, their interest in profit over research has paralyzed Americans most in need of medications.

Luckily, hope is not lost.

With the introduction of the Prescription Drug Price Relief Act of 2019, lawmakers have a unique opportunity to reform a very distorted section of the American marketplace. This bill, if passed, will allow for Congressional oversight of the price of brand-name drugs and force big pharmaceutical companies to disclose more financial information to help lawmakers discern appropriate prices for drugs.

This will increase transparency between the drug industry and consumers. Although it is not a perfect solution, this bill has the rare potential to adjust industry standards.

The Prescription Drug Price Relief Act of 2019 will bring the U.S. to the same level as the rest of the developed world. The U.S. has the highest prescription drug prices in the western world.

The industry’s quest for profit has greatly disadvantaged the American people and places many low-income families in dire situations.

Despite the overwhelming start to 2020, lawmakers must not neglect their duty to protect the American people from pharmaceutical companies who seek to profit off of medical desperation.