Don't miss the moment: Congress must capitalize on momentum to hold Big Pharma accountable
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The American people are demanding that Congress hold Big Pharma accountable and the momentum to lower prescription drug prices has never been greater.

For years we’ve seen outrageous examples of price-gouging.

  • The price of a drug that treats opioid overdose increased by more than 550 percent in three years – at the height of the opioid crisis.
  • The price of one leading painkiller was 22 times more expensive in 2018 than it was in 2013.

These price spikes have real consequences on real people. Every day we see heart-wrenching examples of the consequences of out-of-control drug prices — patients forced to empty savings accounts, travel out of the country in search of cheaper prescriptions and skipping or rationing dosages. This puts not only their financial health, but their physical health in jeopardy.

Big Pharma’s response to this crisis of their own creation is more of the same. In just the first six months of 2019, Big Pharma companies hiked the price of more than 1,200 brand-name prescription drugs. In 2018, for every price reduction, there were 96 price increases

At the same time the industry launched campaigns attacking hospitals, health plans, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and even advocates for seniors. A recent report showed the industry spending record sums on lobbying — fighting bipartisan solutions to lower prescription drug prices.

For Big Pharma, the top priority is to evade responsibility at all costs, so they can continue price-gouging American patients, families and taxpayers.

Congress simply must act. Thankfully, there is growing reason for optimism.

So far this year, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers have taken strong, positive steps in the right direction.

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and Senate Judiciary Committees advanced several market-based solutions that will increase competition and boost transparency.

The CREATES Act, STALLING Act, PACED Act and Affordable Prescription Drugs for Patients Act of 2019 will crack down on the abusive practices and anti-competitive tactics Big Pharma employs to extend monopolies on life-saving drugs. The FAIR Drug Pricing Act will bring much needed transparency to how drug makers determine and hike the price of their products.

This action in the Senate builds on strong progress earlier this year in the House.

Working across party lines, House lawmakers passed the CREATES Act, legislation tackling pay-for-delay arrangements and took small but important steps to reform loopholes in the patent system. These solutions represent positive forward progress to increase competition, boost transparency and crack down on Big Pharma.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle should be commended for working together, in a bipartisan fashion, to take these positive steps in the right direction.

But there is much more work to be done.

House and Senate lawmakers should capitalize on the growing momentum by advancing additional key reforms. To start, they can advance reforms to Medicare Part D that provide out-of-pocket relief for seniors paired with true accountability for Big Pharma. Lawmakers can cap out-of-pocket costs, while disincentivizing Big Pharma’s price-gouging by shifting a significant portion of the catastrophic burden to drug makers — generating savings for seniors at the pharmacy counter and protecting patients and taxpayers from out-of-control prices.

Lawmakers can also advance additional policy solutions that will lead to meaningful price relief where there is little or no competition. Sole-source drugs, in particular, are too often associated with egregious examples of price-gouging and are ripe for bipartisan solutions to spur competition and transparency.

A recent survey, commissioned by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP), found nearly 60 percent of Americans blame Big Pharma’s anti-competitive tactics and price-gouging for rising prescription drug prices. That figure held true across party lines.

A whopping 84 percent of U.S. adults, in that same survey, said policymakers in Washington should focus on cracking down on Big Pharma, rather than be sidetracked by the industry’s blame game.

This is a pivotal moment in the fight to lower prescription drug prices and deliver relief for millions of American patients.

Big Pharma will continue to wage a well-funded campaign to maintain the status quo and to distract from the industry’s egregious pricing practices. Leaders in Washington must ignore the diversions, capitalize on this rare bipartisan consensus and seize the moment to deliver lower drug prices for the American people.

Lauren Aronson is the executive director of the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP).