Officials and Advocates Urge Passage of Prescription Drug Reform
State bill A2418/S1066 would establish Prescription Drug Affordability Board
NEWARK, NJ – On Wednesday afternoon, NJ Citizen Action (NJCA) hosted a virtual webinar on the need for prescription drug price reforms, particularly in the form of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. NJCA was joined by Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27), primary sponsor of bill A2418/S1066 that would establish a PDAB, and the Executive Director of the Maryland PDAB, which has seen great success since implementation.
“Healthcare affordability is a uniquely American problem; we pay more for medications than any citizens in any other country in the world!” said Assemblyman McKeon. “We must address this. Failure to do so or keeping the status quo is not an option for something as essential as our health.”
A2418/S1066 would establish an independent Prescription Drug Affordability Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council, both of which would be appointed by the Governor, Attorney General and Legislative leadership. The Board would make recommendations to set limits on what NJ residents pay for prescription drugs that are not reasonably affordable. Maryland and Maine have established their own Boards with significant success.
One in four Americans report difficulty affording their prescription drugs, and one in eight say they or a family member have rationed doses due to high costs. At home, recent studies show that affording the rising cost of prescription drugs is top of mind for 49% of New Jerseyans, and 43% have delayed or forgone taking a prescription due to the cost. A whopping 88% of NJ residents are in favor of a PDAB, and 72% believe pharmaceutical companies charge too much money.
“This crisis affects millions of people in New Jersey alone. When almost half of the state has had trouble affording prescription medication, the system is broken and needs urgent changes,” commented Maura Collinsgru, NJCA Health Care Program Director. “A Prescription Drug Affordability Board is a vital first step that allows the state to gather and analyze data, which ensures reforms are effective and support the people who need them.”
Rising prices are not limited to specialized or acute medications. The cost of asthma inhalers has increased steadily for years. From 2013 to 2018, the average inhaler price rose by 35%, from around $280 to more than $380. Similarly, a one-month supply of insulin was about $20 in 1996. In 2019 it was $275, a 1200% increase. The annual cost of these prescriptions to middle- and working-class families is well into the billions.
Just in 2020 and 2021, as the pandemic rages and with over half a million dead in this country, prescription drug costs overall have increased by 5%. Pfizer and Moderna refused to sell vaccines at cost as competitors AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson had pledged, instead opting to make billions in profits on this country’s greatest health crisis in a century.
“The Maryland Prescription Drug Affordability Board has done and continues to do great work helping make drugs more affordable for Marylanders,” added Andrew York, Executive Director for the Maryland PDAB. “Gaining insight into pharmaceutical pricing throughout the supply chain is essential for taking the steps necessary to make prescription drugs more affordable and easing the burden on all Americans, especially lower- and middle-class families.”
Comprehensive prescription drug reform entails multiple parallel approaches, including but not limited to capping co-pays, creating more competition among Pharmacy Benefit Managers and regulating how they operate and get paid, and generally improving transparency. Establishing a PDAB is a core mechanism for these reforms and ensures costs are not just shifted around. Having a Board allows New Jersey to pull back the veil of secrecy that has long surrounded pharmaceutical companies’ cost structure, increasing transparency and public accountability.
New Jersey Citizen Action is a statewide advocacy and social service organization that advocates for social, racial and economic justice for all while also meeting the pressing needs of low- and moderate-income New Jerseyans through education and direct service.