Kowalko: Delawareans deserve lower prescription prices

Bay to Bay News | Letter to the Editor | by Rep. John Kowalko

Delawareans’ relationship with the pharmaceutical industry is shaky at best, underpinned by years of high-priced prescription drugs for them but lower prices around the globe. But now, our U.S. senators have a chance to take proactive steps to introduce accountability and transparency to an industry that’s shown us time and time again it is profits over patients.

A series of prescription drug-pricing reforms that would lower the cost of prescription medications for every Delawarean is currently being considered in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better spending package. With Democrats only holding a slim majority in the Senate, it’s imperative that both Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons fight to ensure these reforms are in the final bill.

Pharmaceutical executives and politicians aligned with special-interest groups have gone to great lengths to justify unfair drug prices. They’ve asserted that the profits raked in by prescription drug sales are reinvested to find new cures and to advance existing treatments. However, a recent study found that many new medications fail to improve health outcomes compared to existing treatments, and drugs like insulin — that haven’t been improved in years — are subject to some of the most dizzying price hikes.

Pharmaceutical firms know they have a captive customer base, and there’s no effective regulation overseeing the medication price-setting process. For decades, major players in the industry have been able to set and spike drug prices at their leisure. GoodRx, a watchdog group, releases live updates revealing the arbitrary nature of the rising cost of prescription medications.

Last year, the state auditor conducted an investigation into the pharmaceutical industry and released a report that shows drug companies in the First State artificially raised the prices of prescription medications by 20.1%, raking in $24.5 million over three years through fraudulent practices. This isn’t only happening in Delaware — in recent years, drug companies have strategically consolidated power and colluded to rob consumers trying to fill their necessary prescriptions. Every year, 66% of Americans use basic medications to treat an array of illnesses, and in 2019 alone, Delawareans filled 12 million prescriptions. But paying for those prescriptions wasn’t easy.

Twenty-five percent of Delawareans couldn’t afford their much-needed prescription, and more than 146,000 respondents in the state chose not to seek treatment for their medical issues because of the sky-high prices. It’s clear that we need relief, and fortunately, the Biden administration and Sens. Carper and Coons have our backs.

Our senators have a strong track record of supporting prescription drug-pricing reform initiatives, like Medicare negotiation, that would make it harder for pharmaceutical companies to engage in price-gouging practices and ease the burden on Delawareans hoping for more affordable and more accessible medications.

It’s clear to me that drug companies can’t be trusted. For years, they’ve maximized their profits and obscured their practices by scaring the public with the threat of scientific stagnation. Delaware in particular has been hammered by the pharmaceutical industry and the mechanisms it uses to manufacture crises for money. Now, as Congress is on the precipice of passing policies that will deliver relief to Americans across the country, it’s only right that Sens. Carper and Coons fight for these prescription drug reforms.

Rep. John Kowalko, D-Newark

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