Singleton, Advocates And Consumers Call For Passage Of Bill Holding Big Pharma Accountable For High Rx Prices

Establishing an independent affordability board would help lower prescription drug prices for New Jersey residents.

Trenton— Senator Troy Singleton (D-7) today joined advocates, faith leaders and consumers for a press conference calling on the Legislature to advance A2418/S1066, which would establish an independent Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB). The board would help lower skyrocketing drug prices by making Rx drug pricing structures more transparent and pharmaceutical companies more publicly accountable to New Jersey residents. Senator Singleton and Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27) are primary sponsors of the bill and have led efforts to get the legislation passed in this year’s lame duck session.

“New Jersey’s affordability crisis affects all of us – most especially those who rely on prescription drugs to live,” said Senator Troy Singleton. “Now more than ever, we must work to make life-saving medicine more accessible and affordable, and the Prescription Drug Affordability Board will do just that. It is our hope that the Senate and Assembly will get the Prescription Drug Affordability Board legislation across the finish line during lame duck because each and every day of inaction by the Legislature is another day that goes by where someone skips a dose or cuts a pill in half just to save money. In the richest nation in the world, and one of the wealthiest states in America, this is unacceptable and simply unconscionable.” 

A2418/S1066 would establish an independent Prescription Drug Affordability Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council, both of which would be appointed by the Governor, Attorney General and Legislative leadership. The Board would make recommendations to set limits on what New Jersey residents pay for prescription drugs that are not reasonably affordable. Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon and Colorado have established their own Boards, and New Jersey is one of seven states seeking to do the same.  

Nearly four in ten American adults report not taking their medicines as prescribed at some point in the past year because of the cost. Around 84 percent of New Jersey residents are in favor of establishing a PDAB, while 72% believe pharmaceutical companies charge too much money. 

“The Board created by this legislation would have the mandate, resources and, capacity to analyze the cost drivers of high prescription drug costs and propose solutions to address that problem,” said Maura Collinsgru, NJ Citizen Action Health Care Program Director. “New Jerseyans want action on this issue, and there’s no wonder why – 39% of Americans skip or ration prescription doses due to their high cost, and this statistic only gets worse for people of color. This is unsustainable and demands prompt action from our lawmakers to ensure the drugs people need are accessible and affordable.” 

“Across age and socioeconomic status, communities of color have worse health outcomes and less access to health services, on top of earning less money to pay for healthcare and vital prescription drugs,’ said Danielle Combs, NAACP New Jersey State Conference Administrative Director. “Price gouging by pharmaceutical companies is one of the root causes of health inequities and is a preventable harm to our families. No one should have to choose between covering the cost of their prescription and buying groceries. Our leaders need to pass this bill and establish the Board to protect vulnerable communities from price gouging.” 

Pharmaceutical companies have continued to raise prices and increase profits even as the pandemic devastated the country. Studies show Big Pharma could lose  $1 trillion in sales and remain the most profitable industry in the nation. Congressional reports have found the industry spends more on executive compensation, buybacks, and dividends than research and development. 

“New Jerseyans are sick and tired of paying the highest prices in the world for the medications they need,” said Evelyn Liebman, AARP NJ Advocacy Director. “This board helps get to the heart of the problem, which is the prices set by drug manufacturers. Pharma is making billions while we’re getting ripped off. A New Jersey Prescription Drug Affordability Board will finally shed some light into what has been a very tightly sealed black box.” 

The exorbitantly high cost of prescription drugs has prompted a search for federal solutions through the Biden administration’s proposed Build Back Better reconciliation package. By advancing this bill, New Jersey can again lead the nation on healthcare reform through impactful prescription drug affordability measures. 

“I found that one of my medications costs eight times more here in the United States than it does in Canada,” said Jared Schechtel, an AARP NJ volunteer and future AARP member. “Why are we paying so much more than people in other countries for the same medication? I’m not sure if I can even go back to college because I fear the price of my medication is more important than my education. I shouldn’t have to choose. No one else should have to make that choice either.”