A counter balance to Big Pharma at the ballot box

A counter balance to Big Pharma at the ballot box

To pay for the cancer drugs that kept her husband alive, Nancy Cartwright emptied her 401k, burned through her family’s savings account, and sold her family home. It wasn’t enough. Nancy and her husband eventually filed for bankruptcy. Facing the financial tsunami of high drug prices that too many American families know, Nancy not only lost her husband — she ran out of money.

Patients crushed under rising drug prices have never been able to mobilize against Big Pharma — until now.

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For the first time ever, a patient-led organization will take the fight to the ballot box through a bipartisan Super PAC — Patients For Affordable Drugs Action. It will target candidates in the pocket of Big Pharma, and support Republicans and Democrats who are willing to stand up to drug corporations in state and federal races across the country.

 

I am a patient. I have incurable cancer and very expensive drugs are keeping me alive. I am grateful every day for my medicines. But drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them. Patients must organize and fight back against a system that works for all those who profit from it, but not for patients, consumers and taxpayers.

In New Jersey, we’re sounding the alarm over Big Pharma CEO Bob Hugin’s run for the Senate. Just like Martin Shkreli (aka Pharma Bro), Bob Hugin doubled the price of a life-saving drug and blocked cheaper generic drugs. Along the way, Hugin paid himself more than $140 million.

If a candidate fights for reforms to lower drug prices, we are going to work on his or her behalf. If a candidate is in the pocket of Big Pharma, we will make sure voters know.

Health care is going to be a defining issue in the coming elections. A May Kaiser Health poll found health care ranked as a top-tier voter issue this fall. Among different facets of health care, lowering prescription drug prices was most important. More than seven in 10 Americans said they are more likely to vote for candidates who support bringing down drug prices.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar and FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb are taking several steps to speed cheaper generic medicines to market, to use importation as a relief valve, and to perhaps get rid of the secret pharmacy benefit manager rebate system. These are useful steps — most of which are based on administrative actions. But to make all the reforms necessary, we need more people in Congress and state government who will change laws.

Patients can’t match Big Pharma dollar-for-dollar, but by mobilizing Americans outraged by drug corporation greed, we can have an impact.

We’re going to do it for people like Gulay Turan of New Jersey who sold her furniture to afford her mother’s cancer medication; for Victoria Steussel, a California mother who has to skip doses of her unaffordable cocktail of multiple sclerosis medicines; and for Bob Fowler, an Ohio religious studies professor with cancer afraid to retire because of his extreme prescription drug costs. 

We’ve had enough talk. All the talk about high drug prices must now lead to action bring prices under control.

David Mitchell is the founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs Action and a patient with incurable blood cancer. The organization received principal funding from the Action Now Initiative, an advocacy organization founded by Laura and John Arnold.