Prescription drug prices are sky-high and continue to rise at blistering rates despite the fact that one-in-four Americans can’t afford to buy them. The escalating problem of affordability has created a full-blown health care crisis in our nation.

Every day, across Arizona and right here in Flagstaff, patients and their loved ones — particularly our seniors — must make heart-wrenching decisions of whether or not to put food on the table or purchase medications.

This crisis is not only unsustainable but unacceptable and falls squarely at the feet of Big Pharma. Insulin, for example, has been around for nearly 100 years and its creator sold the patent for only one dollar. But thanks to the anti-competitive and price-gouging practices of the industry, the price of insulin has increased 700 percent over the last 20 years.

Big Pharma utilizes a host of anti-competitive tactics in order to keep prices high. By blocking generic drugs from coming to market through tactics like patent thicketing and pay-for-delay, Big Pharma can maintain near monopolistic control over the drugs patients need to survive — oftentimes for decades. And by shrouding information on how or why prices are set or raised, pharmaceutical companies are able to keep policymakers and consumers in the dark.

Despite increased scrutiny from the media and Pharma has continued to increase prices at rates far out-pacing inflation. Just this year drug companies raised prices on nearly 3,500 drugs. And in June alone, Big Pharma raised the price of 106 drugs by an average of 27 percent. It’s clear that without concrete legislative action from Congress, Big Pharma will continue to operate, as one Pharma CEO put it, like it’s “business as normal.”

Many I speak with in Flagstaff agree: it’s time for Congress to act and deliver real cost relief for patients.

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Now, thanks to months of hard work and bipartisan leadership from the Senate Committee on Finance, Senators McSally and Sinema have a real opportunity to enact meaningful change by passing The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act of 2019.

This bipartisan legislative package would be an important first step towards tackling the crisis of out-of-control drug prices by utilizing market-based solutions to crack down on Big Pharma’s anti-competitive tactics. Included in the package are measures that would protect taxpayers from unlimited Big Pharma subsidies, use market forces to disincentivize price-gouging, boost competition by supporting increased utilization of biosimilars and increase list price transparency.

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Arizona seniors would also benefit tremendously under this drug pricing package. The legislation would cap out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. This would be a game-changer for the nearly half million seniors in Arizona enrolled in Part D.

Unsurprisingly, large drug makers are wielding their influence in Washington to either water-down this drug pricing package or prevent the legislation from a vote on the Senate floor.

Arizona patients, seniors and small businesses need Senators McSally and Sinema to hold Big Pharma accountable, and lower drug prices.

Now is the time to act.

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