As Congress debates adding a prescription drug provision to the budget reconciliation, one thing is certain – while important, proposed federal action to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices will not go far enough to improve access to affordable medications for New Mexicans. We need state action to create an independent board with the authority to evaluate high-priced drugs and negotiate reasonable rates for consumers.
Too many New Mexicans are struggling to afford the prescription drugs they need, often having to choose between their medication and other necessities, like rent and groceries. Rising drug prices affect all New Mexicans including those on Medicare and Medicaid, workers who have health insurance through public and private sector coverage, as well as the uninsured, and it is critical the state take action to ensure all state residents can access affordable medications, because drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them.
That’s why New Mexico Consumers for Affordable Prescriptions is building support across the state for legislation in 2023 to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) with a mandate to evaluate the cost of medications, hold big drug companies accountable, negotiate more affordable rates for New Mexicans and incentivize lower prices.
Nearly half of New Mexicans have skipped taking medication or not filled a prescription because of cost concerns. And the big drug companies have taken advantage of the pandemic to raise prices. On average, Americans pay four times as much for the same medicines as people in other countries, and nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies spend more money on advertising than they do on researching new drugs.
Enough is enough. Creating a PDAB is among the top recommendations for our state to determine the true cost of prescription drugs and help make medications more affordable for consumers, according to a bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures report.
Last year, the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee stood up for New Mexico patients and consumers by endorsing the creation of a PDAB. During a day-long hearing on the high cost of drugs, the committee demanded answers from pharmaceutical industry representatives on why prices continue to skyrocket as pharmaceutical company profits soar.
The committee’s work should continue during its August meeting to finalize a prescription drug affordability board for approval in the 2023 legislative session. Prices for 460 prescription drugs increased by an average of 5.2% in 2020 – more than triple the rate of inflation – according to an analysis from the health care research firm, 3 Axis Advisors. And the Journal of the American Medical Association reports 35 big drug companies raked in $8.6 trillion in profits between 2000 and 2018.
It’s time for the governor and state legislators to stand up to the big drug companies, and they can be confident their constituents are with them. Nine in 10 New Mexicans are either very or somewhat concerned about the cost of prescription drugs, and nearly eight in 10 favor the creation of a PDAB, according to a statewide survey conducted by research firm GBAO.
New Mexico needs to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board now with the authority to examine the entire drug supply chain, negotiate more affordable prices on expensive drugs that create significant affordability problems for New Mexicans, and build upon New Mexico’s efforts to lower health care costs for all residents.