PHOTO RELEASE: Merkley Hosts Discussion on Outrageous Cost of Prescription Drugs

PORTLAND, OR – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley on Monday hosted a roundtable discussion on the high cost of prescription drugs in Oregon and across America, gathering experts who provided insights on how and why drug prices have risen, and hearing from patients who have been impacted by them.

“As we speak, the Trump Administration is meeting with the drug lobby, which wants to stop a proposal that would actually lower drug prices for Americans,” Merkley said during the roundtable, noting the PhRMA lobby’s meeting with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to oppose an international pricing index. “That is what we’re up against, and why it is so important to raise our voices and demand action on drug prices.”

The discussion followed a State of Oregon report showing that some of the most-prescribed medications for the most-common symptoms are the most expensive for Oregonians.

“Every year, I hold a town hall in every Oregon county. No matter where I am, there is one issue that Oregonians consistently ask me to address: the price of prescription drugs,” Merkley continued. “When it comes down to it, the only people in this country who think drug prices aren’t way too high are those getting rich from drug company profits. We need to stand up to Big Pharma, put a stop to pharmaceutical companies’ greed, and provide Americans with much-needed relief.”

In addition to individual Oregonians, Merkley was joined by representatives from Meals on Wheels People, AARP Oregon, Susan G. Komen Oregon and Southwest Washington, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Cascade AIDS Project, the Oregon Nurses’ Association, and Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA).

“Many of those who we serve live at or below the federal poverty level and must choose between paying for food or paying for their medications,” said Suzanne Washington, chief executive officer for Meals on Wheels People. “No one should have to make that choice. We support efforts to lower prescription drug prices and allow our citizens to live with both food and medicine.”

“Cascade AIDS Project applauds Senator Merkley’s efforts on addressing the high cost of prescription drugs,” said Tyler TerMeer, Executive Director for Cascade AIDS Project and Prism Health. “The United States spends about $20 billion a year on H.I.V. drugs and pays the highest price for these drugs globally. At the same time, the cost of H.I.V. treatment and prevention has increased year over year, putting us on an unsustainable trajectory that will prevent us from ending the epidemic, despite having the tools to do so. We need to take action now.”

“We introduced AARP’s Stop Rx Greed program to stop big Phrma in their tracks,” said Ruby Haughton-Pitts, AARP Oregon State Director. “It’s time to cut drug prices now.” 

“At Virginia Garcia, our patients face barriers every day in their efforts to provide for themselves and their families,” said Serena Cruz, executive director of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation. “Our participation in the Federal 340B program and our co-pay assistance initiatives make it possible for our patients to provide for their families, rather than making a choice about the rapidly rising costs of life-saving prescription medications, like insulin. We thank Senator Merkley for his leadership in health care, and look forward to lending our support to his legislative proposals to bring down these costs for families in our community.”

“Reliable access to high-quality and affordable drugs is a critical part of treating breast cancer,” said Andrew Asato, CEO of Susan G. Komen Oregon & SW Washington. “Cancer treatments can be very expensive and may require long-term monitoring and follow-up care, potentially exposing patients to significant financial hardship. This is especially true for people living with stage IV, metastatic breast cancer. They will be on some type of drug regimen for the rest of their lives, as they try to keep their cancer under control. The financial toxicity associated with adhering to treatment regimens as prescribed not only puts patients at risk of financial ruin, but also negatively affects their health if they are forced to delay or stop treatment, or make suboptimal treatment decisions due to cost. The high cost of drugs in the U.S. is a national crisis, and we’re grateful for Senator Merkley for addressing the issue.”

Merkley in June introduced the End Price-Gouging for Medications Act, a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would stop drug companies from charging Americans more for prescription drugs than the median price for those drugs in 11 developed countries. This established reference price would apply to all patients in the U.S. market—those who are uninsured, have purchased their own coverage, or who are covered under a group health plan, such as their policy from an employer or Medicare. If drug companies try to evade the law, they would be subject to fines five times the price difference.

During the roundtable, Merkley announced that once the Senate is back in session, he will introduce a similar reference pricing bill specifically for insulin—a particular need for Oregonians.

For photos, please click here.