The cost of prescription drugs in the United States is “inadmissible”
President Joe Biden visited Green River College in Washington on Friday to discuss cutting costs for American families, particularly for needed medications and treatments.
The chair was introduced by Elisa Graceffo and her daughter, Juliana Graceffo, a senior from Eastlake High School who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at just four years old.
“When I was four years old, the treatment for type 1 diabetes consisted of 10 or more blood tests a day and 10 to 15 insulin injections a day with regular syringes,” young Graceffo said. “Today, I wear a continuous glucometer on my skin that tests my blood sugar level every five minutes, and that data is wirelessly transferred to my insulin pump.”
While Graceffo said she was grateful for medical advances and advocacy from individuals like President Joe Biden and Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, she highlighted the need to reduce the cost of insulin.
“We have better ways to dose and deliver the required insulin, but we still need the insulin itself,” she said. “And here, for my 14 years and counting as a diabetic, we haven’t seen anything but go up after the cost of insulin has gone up.”
It was a message that Biden later expanded on in his own speech, saying it’s “unconscionable” that drugs cost more in the United States than in other developed countries.
“Let’s do something that will lower prices, lower the cost of prescription drugs,” Biden said, later adding, “Imagine what it’s like if you don’t have insurance, you don’t have watch your child know what he needs and know that there is nothing you can do about it. Not only is your child put in danger, but you are deprived of your dignity.
Insulin typically costs ten times more in the United States than in any other developed country, according to the Mayo Clinic. With more than 37 million Americans living with diabetes, it is now considered the costliest chronic disease in the United States.
The price of analog insulin – used to help the body convert glucose into energy – has “inexplicably” skyrocketed over the past two decades, according to the clinic, from an average price of $21 in 1999 to $332 in 2019.
The formula of the most commonly used versions of the drug has not been changed for more than 20 years.
“We’re not asking pharmaceutical companies to do anything they can’t afford,” the president said on Friday. “Do you think it doesn’t affect you? It does. Everyone has less money in their pockets today because of the high cost of health care.
According to a 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation study, 24% of adults and 23% of seniors said it was “difficult” to pay for their prescription drugs. The same poll found that 79% of Americans say drug costs are “unreasonable” in the United States.
Biden has long advocated putting a $35 monthly cap on the price of insulin and included the provision in his original Build Back Better bill, which all but died in the Senate.
Although there was little to no discussion of reviving massive social spending and the climate plan as it was first presented, the United States House of Representatives passed in early April a bill capping the monthly cost of insulin at $35 for insured patients. It’s unclear whether the Senate has enough Republican support to pass the measure, and several senators are working on a different version of the proposal.
The president also wants companies that raise prescription drug prices faster than the rate of inflation to face a steep excise tax, saying Friday: “Let’s end the days when companies could raise prices. price without supervision or liability.”
Biden would also allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs directly with drug companies in hopes of lowering costs for millions of Americans. Currently, Medicare can negotiate lower prices on almost all medical items except prescription drugs.
Another change to the Medicare system would impact seniors by capping the amount they must pay for prescription drugs at $2,000 per year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.