Statement of Peter Maybarduk, Director, Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program
Note: Media reports indicate that President Donald Trump is likely to announce an initiative to lower insulin costs during tonight’s State of the Union . The effort may include incentives for insurers to limit insulin cost-sharing, but the test is whether the administration will ultimately force prescription corporations to meaningfully lower prices.
Donald Trump promised to overhaul the prescription drug market, including bringing prices way, way down. He has failed to do so.
The patchwork of small ideas under consideration by the Trump administration is necessary only because the president failed to adopt obvious and effective solutions to make insulin and other medicines affordable.
Among these effective solutions is direct government price negotiations. A study published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine estimated that negotiations would cut Medicare insulin costs by more than half, saving $4.4 billion in 2017 alone. Candidate Trump promised to support government negotiation powers. President Trump broke that promise.
If Trump was serious about getting tough on Big Pharma, he would negotiate like crazy, enthusiastically support other legislation to rein in industry and challenge monopolies, which would lower costs dramatically for patients and taxpayers.
Instead, the administration reportedly is considering offering new perks to big insurers to cap co-pays for insulin without doing anything to address the underlying problem: price gouging by pharma corporations.
It is important to ease the pain of Americans struggling to afford insulin by limiting what they pay out of pocket. But limiting copays and coinsurance should come along with tough measures that actually lower prices. Otherwise we all continue to pay for Big Pharma’s outrageous price gouging through higher premiums and taxes.
Finally, there are meaningful proposals in Congress to lower drug prices that are supported by House Democratic leadership, Trump, and Republican and Democratic senators alike. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stands in the way. Trump needs to get tough and end McConnell’s (R-Ky.) obstruction.