Time is running out for the state Legislature to pass a bill that advocates say will help lower sky-high prescription drug costs. But pharmaceutical companies say that the measure would be bad for consumers.
“Drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them,” says Maura Callinsgru with New Jersey Citizen Action.
“This is a problem that impacts residents in every corner of our state,” says state Sen. Troy Singleton.
Why are the prices of prescription drugs so high and how do their costs impact insurance premiums? To a certain extent, the public doesn’t know. Advocates want to change that.
“Finally shed some light into what has been a tightly-sealed black box. How much are drug manufacturers spending on things like research and development?” says Evelyn Liebman, director of advocacy for AARP.
Singleton says that he thinks he has a way to shed some light on the top. He is sponsoring a bill that would create a Prescription Drug Affordability board to probe drug company pricing and propose solutions. It could also potentially include price controls.
Singleton says that he wants to “plead with my colleagues – the Senate and the Assembly – to pass this bill during our lame duck period and get it to the governor’s desk.”
“It is not right that Americans are paying so much more for prescription medication than the rest of the world,” says AARP volunteer Jared Schechtel.
Schechtel, of Neptune, says that he knows about the issue firsthand. Medicine for the Crohn’s disease he was diagnosed with as a teenager, costs $6,500 per year. He says that he had to leave college recently because he was diagnosed with Kinsborne syndrome.
“This added a new layer of medications and hospital stays to my life. And I’m not sure if I can even go back to college because I figure the price of my medication is significantly more important than my education,” he says.
Schechtel can stay on his parents’ insurance for the next few years. But many others are not as lucky.
“People shouldn't have to choose between buying medicine and paying for food. But they are,” says Liebman.
Business groups oppose the bill and say it could force research and development out of New Jersey. Some pharmaceutical groups have warned the bill could create "a devastating impact on patient access."
Singleton says he wants to talk about lowering prices.
“It gives me a moment of pause as to why they don’t want to have that discussion,” the senator says. Singleton has just one month to get the bill passed by the state Senate and Assembly before it expires. Similar panels have been stablished in Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire and Oregon.