Americans may be divided on many issues these days, but there is one area of bi-partisan agreement: prescription drugs are too expensive.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “Large majorities of the public favor various policy options aimed at lowering the cost of prescription drugs, including over eight in ten who favor allowing the federal government to negotiate with drug companies to get a lower price on medications.”
And despite pressure from consumers and government, prices continue to rise.
The drug pricing and discount website GoodRx reports that “over 100 manufacturers raised the price for 619 brand drugs by an average of 5.2 percent at the start of the new year.
Naturally, as prices continue to rise, many individuals have to pay more out-of-pocket. A Consumer Reports survey found that 30 percent of Americans who take prescription medicines say their costs went up in the past year.
Why? “No federal law or regulation effectively keeps drug prices in check,” according to Consumer Reports. (Drug and healthcare costs are a big issue in this year’s presidential campaign.)
The Trump administration tried to force pharmaceutical companies to reveal the price of their drugs in television commercials. However, that rule is currently tied up in court challenges.
States are taking it upon themselves to try to improve transparency, and West Virginia is among them. The AARP is pushing two bills this session that would require drug manufacturers that sell prescription drugs in West Virginia to publicize information on prices and price increases.
AARP is backing their bills with research by West Virginia pollster Mark Blankenship. His survey of 800 registered voters 18 and older in the state found that 89 percent of those questioned take prescription drugs on a regular basis or live with someone who does.
Seven in ten West Virginians questioned say the prices of prescription drugs are unreasonable and two in five say they did not fill a script provided by their doctor within the last two years primarily because of the cost.
A whopping 89 percent surveyed say they strongly or somewhat support laws that require drug companies to report reasons for dramatic increases in the cost of their drugs and 83 percent, regardless of their party affiliation, believe transparency laws will help control prescription drug prices.
However, Dean Erhardt, CEO of D2 Consulting, a pharmaceutical consultancy, said transparency is no panacea. “Transparency is still a little bit of a phantom. The consumer really doesn’t know what the cost of a drug is, so what is the value of transparency?”
“If you want to lower prices you need to look at what’s driving costs,” he told the publication Modern Healthcare. Certainly that’s the case, but that is a complicated issue out of reach of the average patient.
Figuring out the cost of prescription drugs is like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Consumers struggle to understand why prices are what they are. That’s a significant impediment when we are constantly told to be better healthcare consumers.
It would help if people knew the real cost of prescription drugs.