Legislative push for new bills to make prescription drugs more affordable

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(ABC 6 News) – For some, paying bills can be a struggle. But, imagine having to decide between paying your bills or paying for life-saving prescription drugs. That’s the reality for some and now lawmakers are looking to fix it.

One of the big issues in prescription drug prices is competition. Big pharmaceutical companies find ways to keep cheaper generic brands off of the shelves. Now U.S. lawmakers are pushing new bills that could provide solutions.

“It’s something that is needed. It’s not a want, it’s a need for their body,” said Karen Jacobson.

Month after month, it can be a real struggle to pay for expensive, but life-saving, prescription drugs.

Mia Martin knows exactly the price the struggle comes at.

“My brother has required insulin for years, so I really have a soft spot in my heart for these people who are dealing out these big coins day after day after day,” Martin explained.

She says fortunately, her brother has been able to afford his insulin, but not everyone is so lucky.

People like 26-year-old Alec Smith died after getting his insulin. After he went off his parents insurance, with the expensive price tag for the insulin he required, he rationed it until he eventually passed away.

Now in Minnesota, The Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act passed in 2020 requires most manufacturers of insulin to establish procedures to make insulin available to eligible individuals who are in urgent need of insulin or need access to an affordable insulin supply.

At the federal level, U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are ready to make sure no one has to sacrifice their health over a price tag.

“We want to have affordable medication as a priority. It’s been mine for a priority, it’s been Amy’s for a priority,” Senator Grassley explained during a virtual press conference Thursday morning.

During the press conference, the senators talked about two new bills moving through Congress: the Stop STALLING Act and the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics and Biosimilars Act. Both are aimed at deterring unfair practices from big pharmaceutical companies to limit cheaper alternatives of prescription drugs.

Senator Klobuchar says for diseases like arthritis, people require weekly injections costing $4,400 per month with insurance.

“You think about it when the estimated average mortgage payment in Minnesota is a little over $1,600, a $4,400 monthly drug cost is like paying three mortgages,” Senator Klobuchar explained.

Both senators say lowering the costs should not be up for discussion.

For people like Martin’s brother, legislation like this would make all of the difference.

“He’s been able to maintain his health but at the expense of his insulin also. It would be so exciting for all of these people who are struggling financially to provide themselves a quality of living,” Martin said.

There are also bills moving along at the state level.

One would be an expansion of the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act. This would cap co-pays at $25 per month for a monthly supply of prescription drugs.

The bill just got approved in the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee on Monday and will move on in the Minnesota legislature.