Discussion needed on raising drug pricing

Tue 3-12-2019

Some health-care groups say it's time to raise the curtain on the escalating cost of prescription drug prices. According to A-A-R-P, more than 300-billion dollars are spent on prescription medications each year in the U-S, and nearly three-fourths of it is on brand names, which only account for one-in-eight prescriptions. Republican State Senator Scott Jensen of Chaska says honest discussions are needed about what's happening behind the scenes with pharmaceutical companies and drug pricing.


"We have a health-care system that's out of control because of our inability to move forward with innovative legislation. We're shortchanging the entire American population by not engaging in a fully open dialogue where elected leaders are courageous."

Minnesota lawmakers are considering bills to increase transparency and crack down on price gouging. And Jensen is sponsoring legislation that would require better disclosure from Pharmacy Benefit Managers, who act as middle-men and often set drug prices. Eight-in-ten people recently polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation said the cost of prescription drugs was unreasonable.

Erin Parrish with A-A-R-P Minnesota contends that too many people struggle to afford needed and life-saving medications. She spoke with a woman whose monthly treatment for rheumatoid arthritis jumped from 60 dollars to 14-hundred dollars.


"As a result, she opted to go without the treatment for about three years, which has had some irreparable damage to her health. She no longer has the strength to cut a peanut butter sandwich. She's had to give up hobbies that she loved."

A-A-R-P is kicking off a national campaign to urge lawmakers to address rising drug prices, which includes calls for allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and accelerating the market release of generic drugs. Jensen says that while congressional action is needed, state-level measures can have a greater impact. And he's hopeful his colleagues will take action.


"On the one hand, they want something done. On the other hand, they're not certain that they want to endorse or promote further regulation. I would challenge that. I think we need to look at thoughtful, reasonable, circumspect regulation as a real tool to help flush out this increasingly large piece of the health-care pie."

Drug companies have said higher prices are the result of research and innovation for new medications. However, some argue that companies are increasing the price of drugs already on the market.