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Why prescription drug prices are increasing

Regarding “Rising Prescription Drug Prices Leave Seniors Struggling” by Katelyn Hibbard and Lauren Rude in the Oct. 13 edition, the writers present a profound problem that cannot be ignored: U.S. prescription drug prices are increasing. This issue is afflicting vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and giving them no choice but to struggle to maintain their health. In 2017, the United States spent approximately $333 billion on prescription drugs — far more than any other industrialized country. But why are drug prices rising and what can be done?

There are few major reasons, especially as it pertains to name-brand medications like the ones mentioned within the original article. These include the lack of competition and price transparency. The lack of market competition is mostly due to pharmaceutical manufacturer’s patent protection and the ability to extend patent life through a process known as evergreening — driving generic competitors out for decades. Additionally, under current Medicare laws, the federal government does not have the ability to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of beneficiaries, allowing companies to demand and set their own prices. The lack of transparency results from the negotiating power insurance companies, drug manufacturers, and pharmacy benefit managers ultimately have. This allows for them to negotiate drug prices through disguise of rebates and various other fees for their own economic benefit, all at the cost of the patient.

In moving forward, it is imperative to promote and vote for representatives who support legislative solutions to this emerging problem, such as patent reform, governmental negotiation of Medicare drug prices, price caps, and better price transparency from pharmaceutical companies.

Alejandro Carrasco

Columbia, Maryland

Submitted via Virtual Newsroom

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