Lawmakers Say We Pay Too Much For Prescription Drugs. We Agree


A New Jersey lawmaker thinks you're paying too much for Lyrica, a popular medication that treats nerve and muscle pain.

He thinks people who take Januvia to control their Type 2 diabetes are footing too large a bill, as are those who depend on Xarelto to prevent deadly blood clots.

Pricing standards for the three prescription drugs - among many others -- have come under scrutiny by state Sen. Troy Singleton (D-Burlington County), who is promoting a bill prohibiting anyone from charging excessively for drugs developed through publicly funded research.

The measure, approved overwhelmingly last month by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, would correlate drug prices in New Jersey with those roughly comparable to the United States.

The benchmark would be the lowest price charged in countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a coalition of 30-plus democratic countries working together to improve the economic and social well-being of the world's people.

Singleton's bill is an ambitious attempt to rein in the prices that an increasingly fed-up population blames for driving up health-care costs.

And it may or may not work, depending on how much pushback it gets from the Garden State's powerful pharmaceuticals industry.

But at the very least, the legislation deserves a full hearing. More than three-quarters of respondents polled nationally by the Kaiser Family Foundation in September pointed a finger at drug companies' addiction to their bottom line for soaring health costs.

The bill would pertain to all drugs and healthcare technologies approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration and developed directly or indirectly through taxpayer money.

It's similar to bill introduced last year by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), which ultimately never went anywhere. But if it had, it seems likely that today we would be paying less for many of the medications that keep Americans thriving.

In May, a report circulated in the U.S. House of Representatives showed that of the 20 best-selling medicines in this country, 16 showed significant price rises between December 2016 and March 2018.

A hefty percentage of those - including the aforementioned Lyrica, Januvia and Xarelto - were produced by New Jersey-based drug-makers.

Out-of-control drug pricing has been a hot issue in the U.S. Senate race pitting incumbent Robert Menendez against GOP challenger Bob Hugin, former head of a biotech company called Celgene.

Celgene's chemotherapy drug Revlimid is currently on the market at $14,000 for 21 capsules, according to the website GoodRX.

Singleton's legislation, which is headed to the Senate Budget Committee for review, may not be perfect. It may still need fine-tuning. But it offers a basis for a thoughtful, thorough conversation about why New Jersey's residents are paying through the nose to stay alive.

Original Article