AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Prescription drug prices are now so high that one in four Coloradans didn’t fill a prescription last year because it cost too much. Claudia Curry Hill among them. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1988.
Years later, a drug came to market that slowed the progression of her disease. It cost $400 a month with insurance. When she went on Medicare, it went from $400 to $4,000 a month.
“I had to go off medication because we couldn’t afford it. We’re retired. My husband actually offered to keep working. He was 75 at the time.”
Colorado Congressman Jason Crow, a Democrat representing Congressional Dist. 6, said no one should be in that position. He’s taking action with the “Freedom From Price Gouging Act.” The bill would cap price increases for Medicare patients to the cost of inflation.
If a drug company raises prices beyond that, it has to reimburse customers the profit, and could face a penalty equal to 125% of the increase. Medicaid already does it and Crow said it’s working.
“What this bill does is it says enough is enough. We’re going to stop these vast increases in drug prices because Americans are paying far more than the rest of the world,” said Crow.
Seniors on Medicare are especially impacted. Their co-pays are often more than their income.
“It’s all about the money. It’s not about helping people or caring for people. It’s about making money,” said Curry Hill.
The wholesale price of the drug she was taking, Gilenya, increased nearly 60% in just five years, to almost $100,000 a year. She says that’s greed.
“There’s no reason for it to be this high. Every MS drug that’s on the market today the National Institute of Health has sponsored or payed for and who pays for the NIH? It’s taxpayers,” said Curry Hill.
She traveled to Washington D.C. last year to lobby lawmakers, “It is too late for me. I’m already off the drugs. But there’s a lot people right behind me that need the help.”
A bill similar to Crow’s has support from Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate.
“This is an issue that should not be partisan because what I know is people are paying vastly more than they should be throughout the country, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in a Republican district or a Democratic district… it’s a major burden for our families and there’s an easy way to fix this that’s been proven to actually work. So I’m going to be working really hard to make sure that I’m reaching across the aisle, that I’m getting Republican support for this because this is something that’s common sense,” said Crow.
Crow is also sponsoring a bill that allows Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies.