OKLAHOMA CITY — An effort by U.S. Senator James Lankford to repeal part of a new law meant to relieve seniors of the cost of prescription drugs is sparking outrage and concern in his home state.
The Oklahoma Republican is a co-author of the Pharmaceutical Innovation Protection Act, which:
• Strip Medicare of power to negotiate drug prices.
• Eliminate the $2,000 out-of-pocket cap set to take effect in 2025 for seniors who choose to enroll in the Medicare Part D program. There is no existing cap and 1.2 million enrollees have spent more than $2,000 in 2019, according to AARP.
• Repeal a provision that penalizes drug companies for raising prices faster than inflation rates in an effort to provide seniors drug plan premium relief and cost sharing.
All three provisions were Democratic priorities in the Cut Inflation Act, but experts say there was broad bipartisan support among American adults for capping and negotiating drug costs.
Sean Voskuhl, AARP Oklahoma State Director, said many drug innovations are made in the United States at taxpayer expense, but Americans pay three times as much as other countries for the same drugs. on prescription.
He said Americans are “outraged” and feel it is not fair that they have to pay more than any other country in the world. AARP has been fighting to restore Medicare’s right to negotiate drug prices since 2003, when the federal government banned the practice, he said. It also supports reimbursable caps for seniors.
“Clearly, controlling the high cost of prescription drugs is a top priority for AARP,” Voskuhl said. “And we believe these provisions will go a long way to combating the high cost of prescription drugs. It’s about access, and people decide whether they can afford prescription drugs, buy food, or pay their utility bills. It’s a tough decision people have to make around the dinner table.
Voskuhl said it’s important to support innovation in new drugs, but if seniors can’t afford their prescription drugs because of high costs, that’s a problem.
In a statement on Thursday, Lankford defended his measure, saying “it’s an easy political stunt” to say that anyone who doesn’t believe in government drug price controls should support high drug prices, but ignores the real consequences. price controls. .
“The price of milk and eggs is also far too high at the moment, but does anyone think that the price and supply of milk and eggs would be better if the government ran the operation and set the costs ?” He asked.
Lankford said the price control provisions don’t come into effect until 2027 and give the US president the power to choose the final price of drugs. If a company disagrees, the president can raise the company’s taxes to 95%, “thereby killing the company”.
He said the threat of a 95% tax rate forces pharmaceutical companies to obey the government and puts politics on drug prices and “will create a stampede to attack companies that have no political favor. “.
“People hate paying high prices for drugs, but they are so grateful for the remarkable innovation that has led to treatments for millions of Americans and billions of people around the world with cancer, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and countless other illnesses,” Lankford said. “Undoubtedly, controlling drug prices will crush pharmaceutical companies the government doesn’t like and discourage large-scale private investment in pharmaceutical innovation, resulting in fewer cures, fewer drug options and will limit access to medications for seniors on Medicare.”
Lankford said the price of prescription drugs needs to be lowered, but the best way to do this is to increase competition by allowing existing low-cost drugs, such as generics, to enter the hands of consumers more easily. patients, not through “excessive government mandates”.
“Working to reduce drug prices should not be a partisan issue,” he said. “It’s a goal we all share, but how we solve the problem matters. Unintended consequences on drug availability will matter for people who can no longer access their doctor’s chosen treatment.
U.S. Senator Mike Lee, R-Utah, said in a press release in late September that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted price control provisions would lead to 15 fewer lifesaving drugs over 30 years, resulting in the loss of 1.9 million people over a decade. during the same period.
But Enid’s Kyle Clark said it was not a partisan issue. Seniors have long waited for Medicare to be able to negotiate drug costs in a way similar to what European countries have done for over a decade, resulting in more affordable drug costs for seniors living in overseas, he said.
Clark, who is retired, said it makes “insane” that Medicare isn’t already allowed to negotiate drug costs because it would lower costs for seniors. He said he didn’t understand why Lankford would want to “cancel all cost-cutting measures” for seniors. He tried, but couldn’t get any further answers from the Lankford office in Oklahoma.
“He’s actually saying there that if we don’t flood these big pharma companies with billions of dollars in profits, just insane profits, they don’t have enough intelligence in their boardroom and in their accounting departments. and different departments to figure out their own costs,” Clark said. “So that if we don’t flood them with money, they won’t have enough money to innovate new drugs.”
Clark argues that the pharmaceutical industry will be fine without billions of dollars in subsidies being paid for by the elderly. Many seniors on Medicare are having to choose between accessing their lifesaving drugs and getting food, he said.
He said he fears that if Republicans win Congress next month, they will immediately scrap new provisions that would have greatly benefited seniors like him.