Pappas, Granite Staters discuss the harsh impacts of drug price inflation on their lives
MANCHESTER — Last week, Granite Staters joined Rep. Chris Pappas and Granite State Progress and Protect Our Care NH to discuss the urgent need for prescription drug reforms.
On the Zoom, residents and medical professionals spoke about the astronomical price of life-saving drugs and how these costs, even with insurance and other supports, are creating financial hardship for thousands of Granite Staters.
Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01) was among the 40 House Democrats who sent a new letter urging Congressional leadership to pass historic and life-saving drug reform legislation to lower the price of medications for NH residents and millions of Americans.
As Americans worry about rising costs and inflation, drug costs continue to surge. Between 2008 and 2016 brand-name oral prescription drugs saw cost hikes of 9% annually, while injectable drugs priced up 15% per year. The high cost of prescription drugs is also a significant driver of personal medical debt. Meanwhile, drug companies continue to rake in record profits. Between 2000 and 2018, 35 big drug companies had a combined revenue of $11.5 trillion, with a gross profit of $8.6 trillion.
Rep. Chris Pappas said he remains dedicated to passing legislation that will provide Granite Staters, and all Americans, much needed relief on prescription drug costs. “The cost of prescription drugs is one of the most pressing issues families are facing today. I hear about it every day,” said Pappas. “Clearly the drug companies continue to reap record profits and it is at the expense of the American people. My constituents aren’t fine with the way things are and we’ve got to change it.”
Diane McCann, a retired nurse from Durham, spoke about the continued rising cost of insulin, which one of her daughters must take to treat her diabetes. Because companies are allowed to renew patents on insulin for small changes, it also means there are few generic options available. This has led to large price increases. For McCann’s daughter, the cost of insulin has increased 13 fold since 1996. “Every little change costs the customer quickly,” said McCann. “One never knows what you have to plan for because it’s out of my hands.”
Amy Brady, from Hollis, NH, is a working mom of two and the wife of a combat veteran who has an autoimmune disorder while managing her children’s health conditions as well. She two spoke of the financial burden for treating her daughter’s Type 1 diabetes, which requires monitors and other supplies which cost the family $8,293.89, not including insulin. She also spoke of the outsized burden this puts on women, who are caretakers while working to make ends meet. “No family should have to choose between the costs of living and taking care of a child with chronic illness,” said Brady.
Mike Castaldo, from Dover, NH, said even with insurance, the cost of healthcare is untenable for many. Between a recent surgery and prescription drug costs, his out of pocket costs will be about $30,000 this year. “I’m not sure what you’d do with $30,000, but I can think of a lot of things it could be spent in our community,” said Castaldo. “I know it’s not easy to hear it again and again. It’s also difficult to have to live it as a virtual cash register for the medical establishment. Something needs to change for Diane, for Amy, for me, and everyone else on this call.”
Representing the provider side of this issue, Sandi Denoncour, a registered nurse, said the various prices, depending on which insurance and prescription drug program someone uses, can be the difference of hundreds of dollars for treatment. Simplifying prices would immediately cuts costs because she would not have to spend time troubleshooting with patients how to find more affordable drugs. “It’s just such a waste of time and resources,” said Denoncour. “There are so many barriers along the way.”
Sergio Zullich, who is a director of pharmacy in Coos County, said this issue disproportionately impacts those on fixed incomes, even with government programs to support their drug costs. “If you’re on fixed income, you’re talking about someone spending 30-40% of their annual income on prescriptions and it’s disheartening,” he said. Yet this is an issue that touches nearly everyone, including those with health insurance, Zullich added. “If you get a patient who can’t afford medications, even with insurance, something’s broken and it needs to be fixed.”