Candidates should support prescription drug affordability - Albuquerque Journal

Candidates should support prescription drug affordability

The fall campaign season is here. This is when legislative and statewide candidates should start getting specific about solutions to the real problems New Mexicans face every day.

It’s no secret that rising prices on everything from housing to groceries are hurting families. One issue that should be top of mind for candidates to ease costs is improving access to affordable medications.

In August, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, authorizing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies to help lower some prescription drug prices. It is a step in the right direction, but New Mexico can, and should, do more to fill the gaps left by the federal legislation.

NMVC Action Fund is a nonprofit organization advancing policies that support concrete improvements in the well-being of New Mexico’s children, including early childhood and public education, health care, food security and economic well-being.

Drug prices might not seem like an issue impacting children. However, we know kids do better when the people they love can make ends meet, and high drug prices harm their parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors.

One easy issue for candidates to support is the creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board with a mandate to evaluate the cost of medications, hold big drug companies accountable and negotiate more affordable prices for New Mexicans.

A board like this should have the authority to help make prescription drugs more affordable for New Mexicans by examining the entire drug supply chain, negotiating more affordable prices and building on the state’s efforts to lower health care costs for all residents.

During just the first seven months of this year, the pharmaceutical industry hiked drug prices 1,186 times, according to a new report from Patients for Affordable Drugs. The increase in prices is outpacing inflation. This consistent cost increase is happening to drugs to treat such conditions as leukemia, blood disorders, lupus and psoriasis. Nearly 90% of all price hikes in 2022 have been on brand-name drugs, which carry the highest prices on the market.

Americans pay four times as much for the same medicines as people in other countries. According to a statewide survey, nearly half of New Mexicans have skipped taking medication or not filled a prescription because of cost concerns. This is a problem we can tackle.

The bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures released a report stating that a Prescription Drug Affordability Board is a common-sense way to determine the cost of prescription drugs and make medications more affordable. In August, the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee committed to draft PDAB legislation for the 2023 session. Now, we need to get it passed.

It’s time for legislative and statewide candidates to stand for New Mexico patients and consumers, and commit to action. Establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board will give New Mexico an independent advocate who can evaluate prescription drug costs and negotiate reasonable prices.

James Jimenez served previously as executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, chief of staff to N.M. Governor Bill Richardson and Cabinet secretary of the N.M. Department of Finance and Administration. At the state’s Legislative Finance Committee, he served as economist and supervisor of the Performance Audit Unit.

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