As president of the United Auto Workers (UAW), I recently joined dozens of organizations from across the country in a coordinated effort demanding that Congress and the Trump Administration develop strong, REAL reform to lower drug prices for patients and end Big Pharma’s price gouging.
More than a dozen organizations — including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Alliance for Retired Americans, American Medical Student Association, the Center for Popular Democracy, Health Care for America Now, People’s Action, Public Citizen, Social Security Works, and many others — joined forces with us to make our voices heard, and be clear in our support of American health and the ability of our citizens to receive the medications they need at an affordable cost. No one should have to ration their medication or leave their prescription drugs at the pharmacy counter because they cannot afford them.
The current cost of prescription drugs is at a crisis level. The reason? Big Pharma’s influence in Washington, D.C. The numbers tell the story best:
Over the course of six election cycles, pharmaceutical political action committees (PACs) have given nearly $79 million to members of Congress. In 2017 alone, 1,480 pharmaceutical lobbyists descended on Capitol Hill. In fact, pharma leads in lobbying spending among industries, dropping a whopping $4 billion in the past two decades.
Americans everywhere, regardless of where they live or what treatment they need, are feeling the devastating effects. Whether they need insulin, blood pressure medicine or life-saving cancer drugs, these rising and inflated costs are hurting families across the country, and UAW members and retirees are no exception.
Why do we pay more?
Currently, the citizens of the U.S. pay more for prescription drugs than any other comparable country in the world. In 2018, nearly 28 million Americans watched the cost of their medications rise while pharmaceutical companies benefited from huge tax breaks. From 2012 to 2016, insulin costs nearly doubled.
At the UAW, more than 656,271 retirees of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — along with their eligible dependents — receive health care through the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust. And while the costs of health care has increased substantially over the years, our members’ retirement incomes remain fixed.
For our retired members, insulin is the single largest drug purchased. In 2018, insulin products represented our second overall largest drug spend (surpassed by only very expensive oncology medications) — with the Trust spending $235.2 million on insulin.
Although insulin has been on the market for almost 100 years, the cost of this medication has nearly doubled from 2012-2016. Traditionally drugs with that type of longevity reduce dramatically in cost, not increase.
Big Pharma profits
The reason for the increase — Big Pharma profit. As drug prices rise, pharmaceutical CEO’s get richer.
No one should have to choose between life-saving medicines and paying for basic life needs. It’s time to hold Big Pharma accountable for setting high drug prices and price gouging working families while making enormous profits for themselves.
Congress and the President should enact bold legislation to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable, and make medicines affordable
It’s a fight the UAW stands firmly behind, and will pursue on behalf of our brothers and sisters as well as all Americans.
The health and well-being of the American people is at stake.
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