Rep. Wild Leads Letter Calling for Pandemic Price Caps on Life-Saving Prescription Drugs
WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA) led 56 of her colleagues in a letter calling for the next COVID-19 stimulus to set immediate price caps, through the duration of this pandemic, for the prescription drugs that treat the medical conditions most adversely affected by the novel coronavirus, like medications for heart disease, insulin for diabetes, and inhalers and steroids for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“Outstanding lifesaving prescription drugs are useless if the people who need them cannot afford them,” Wild said. “During this surge of COVID-19 cases in the United States, we are seeing shortages of life-saving drug supplies, rapid increases in drug prices, significant job losses, and thousands left without health insurance. Without bold action, we will lose siblings, coworkers, parents, and neighbors who cannot afford the prescriptions that would save their life. That is why this effort is so critical. We have an obligation to make sure that every American can afford and access the care they need to get through this pandemic.”
In Pennsylvania alone, 1,144,336 people live with diabetes and depend on insulin to manage it. Over the past decade, the price of insulin has increased 197% and continues to be as much as ten times as expensive as the cost in Canada. Just over 10% of Pennsylvanians, or 1,021,687 individuals, live with asthma and are at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. During this crisis, there have been confirmed accounts of prices as high as $1,000 for inhalers used to treat respiratory problems caused by asthma and compounded by COVID-19. Lack of access to inhalers, brought on by increased prices, may result in increased use of nebulizers, which produce mist that may carry the virus and further the spread of COVID-19.
As more data becomes available, cardiac experts now believe that COVID-19 can infect the heart muscle, leading to heart failure or death in as many as 1 in 5 patients. Prior to this pandemic, for 13% of the 121.5 million American adults diagnosed with cardiovascular disease as of 2016 drug cost was a deterrent for taking medications as prescribed.
“We know that the failure to address the prescription drug price issue has carried dire consequences for our constituents even before there was a pandemic spreading through our communities – consequences like bankruptcy, mortgage foreclosure, the rationing of drugs, medical complications, and death,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter. “These life-threatening consequences will only worsen against the backdrop of a grim March jobs report that saw 700,000 lost jobs and which will leave many without health insurance. In a nation that already has the highest drug prices of any in the developed world, we know that market forces—driven by short supply and high demand—will only lead to increased prices that our constituents already cannot afford.”
Throughout her time in Congress, Wild has continually called attention to the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs in the Greater Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania through her work on the House Education and Labor Committee. Passed through the committee last October and by the House last December, Wild was a cosponsor of H.R.3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, landmark legislation to end price gouging by pharmaceutical companies and cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors. Almost one year ago, Wild led a bipartisan amendment to stop the rising costs of premiums that, with the support of 78 Republicans, passed the House as a part of H.R. 986, the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act.
Read the full text of Wild’s letter here.