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New prescription drug board will deliver relief from soaring costs

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New prescription drug board will deliver relief from soaring costs

Feb 26, 2024 | 7:00 am ET
By Rebecca Yao
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New prescription drug board will deliver relief from soaring costs
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People on Medicare spent $3.4 billion out of pocket last year on the 10 drugs selected for Medicare price negotiations. Minnesota's Prescription Drug Affordability Board will deliver more relief. Photo via iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Earlier this month, under the threat of subpoena, the CEOs of three large pharmaceutical companies appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions to explain why Americans face the world’s highest prescription drug prices. They blamed middlemen and touted the availability and development of drugs in this country.

As a resident physician, I find these arguments unconvincing. Prescription drugs do not work if people cannot afford them.

Certainly, solving the problem of skyrocketing prescription drug costs is complex. Yet while the wealthy pharmaceutical industry continues to shift blame to maximize their profits, we learn more every day from investigators, whistleblowers, and others who are shedding light on their questionable practices.

Recently, I have been encouraged by the progress Minnesota has been making to lower drug costs for our residents.

Last year, Minnesota began appointing independent health care and finance experts to the newly created Prescription Drug Affordability Board, or PDAB.

With its authority to review and analyze drug prices, hear stakeholder testimony — including patients affected by high drug costs — and most importantly, use the power to cap the costs of certain high priced drugs, Minnesota’s PDAB is a promising step in the fight toward lower drug costs. Indeed, Attorney General Keith Ellison’s bipartisan Task Force on Lowering the Cost of Pharmaceutical Drugs identified a PDAB as a crucial policy recommendation in our efforts to make health care more affordable for Minnesotans.

The road to get here has not been easy. Before the recent appointment of the PDAB’s seven members and the establishment of an 18-member advisory council that includes patients, the drug industry lobbied mightily to derail the panel. Drug industry lobbyists flooded the state Capitol with ads and other resources to oppose the PDAB, including industry-funded consumer groups as fronts.

Meanwhile, patients continue to suffer. Medications keep costing more than what Minnesotans can afford, rising at a faster rate than inflation.

As a physician, I join many others throughout our state in supporting the PDAB. We have all seen firsthand the devastating consequences of rising prescription drug costs. Because patients couldn’t afford drugs, they suffered avoidable complications, while others were prevented from achieving health care goals and well being.

Minnesotans deserve relief from costly medications so they can enjoy good health and wellness, and live full lives. Our new PDAB can help rein in high costs — and finally hold drugmakers accountable for years of questionable activities and finger pointing.

We know that the manufacturers of the first 10 drugs selected for Medicare price negotiation under the Inflation Reduction Act spent tens of billions of dollars on activities that enriched themselves, from stock buybacks, lavish CEO pay and perks, and shareholder dividends — billions of dollars more than on actual research and development.

On Super Bowl Sunday, pharmaceutical corporations showed just how well they’re doing financially when they aired multiple ads for prescription drugs during the big game — ads that cost roughly $7 million for just 30 seconds of air time.

Minnesotans deserve relief from costly medications, and the Prescription Drug Affordability Board will finally deliver it.