The Senate must act now on high drug prices

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One morning last year, I woke up with a slight pain in my left eye. Over the next two days, my vision blurred and I lost the ability to see color in that eye. After a whirlwind afternoon of seeing my doctor, being rushed to an eye doctor, and then sent to the ER at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare for an MRI, I learned I had multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS is an unpredictable and often disabling disease of the central nervous system. The exact cause is unknown, but we do know that something triggers the immune system to attack the brain and spinal cord. The resulting damage disrupts signals to and from the brain. This interruption of signals causes unpredictable symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood swings, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis. Everyone’s experience with MS is different and these losses can be temporary or long lasting.

Being diagnosed with a lifelong incurable disease at age 38 is shocking enough, but learning that the median price of a one-year course of MS-modifying therapy is over $94,000 per year is a second shock. fist in the gut. At that price, if I lived to the average age of a woman in the United States, my prescription alone would cost almost $4 million over my lifetime.

My medicine is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It is the drug that slows the progression of the disease and allows people with MS to work and earn a living; able to contribute to society; able to push their children on the garden swing; to be able to walk in the evening with their husbands, but for many the price is unaffordable. 40% of people living with MS say they have stopped or changed their medication use because of cost and rolled the dice on how the disease will affect them next.

Instead of getting cheaper over time, the price of MS drugs continues to rise out of control. In fact, six drugs to treat MS have seen their prices increase by more than 200% since their launch. It’s not innovation and drugs can’t save lives if nobody can afford it.

Graph showing that the average cost to bring a medicine to market has been increasing since 2013 and decreasing slightly in 2020.

The one million Americans with multiple sclerosis and others with other chronic illnesses can’t wait – Congress must do something about high prescription drug prices.

It’s time to cap out-of-pocket prescription drug costs in Medicare, spread those costs out over the year so enrollees don’t face their highest healthcare expenses in the first few months. , to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and to receive a rebate if costs rise more than inflation.

Together, these policies would have a real impact on the high cost of prescription drugs and the high out-of-pocket expenses Americans face to access the drugs they need. It is time for the US Senate to do its part and tackle this problem today.

We’re running out of time – every morning another American wakes up with a chronic illness like me. Exorbitant drug costs should not make a difference in their future.

Samantha Cooksey Strickland

Samantha Cooksey Strickland is a Jefferson County resident, wife and mother of two young boys. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in February 2021 and now works with the National MS Society as a senior advocacy officer in Florida.

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