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Drug pricing reform

Protect Our Care activists take part in a Lite-Brite demonstration outside of pharmaceutical industry lobby group PhRMA's headquarters calling for an end to drug company greed on September 28, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Protect Our Care)

New Campaign Calls On Biden and Becerra to 'Make Meds Affordable'

"We cannot wait for Congress. Lives are at stake," said Be a Hero co-founder Ady Barkan. "President Biden and Secretary Becerra have the authority and must act now."

Jessica Corbett

"The choice is clear—it's our communities or Big Pharma."

"No one should have to choose between buying groceries and paying for medications they need to survive."

That's according to Maurice BP-Weeks, co-executive director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy, one of the groups behind the "Make Meds Affordable" campaign that launched Wednesday.

The campaign urges President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to use their existing authority to lower prescription drug prices.

"Our communities are navigating their third year of a global pandemic, and many are choosing to forgo needed medications because of the cost," said Vinay Krishnan, national field organizer for the Center for Popular Democracy Action.

"All while pharmaceutical companies make billions in profits," Krishnan added. "President Biden must allow for the production of generics that would eliminate monopolies on medicines and deliver the healthcare people need. We're asking the president to Make Meds Affordable."

As Peter Maybarduk, Access to Medicines director at Public Citizen, put it: "No one should have to choose between buying groceries and paying for medications they need to survive."

Aija Nemer-Aanerud of People's Action emphasized how high the stakes are, explaining that "drug company monopolies have gotten so big and so powerful that they can now basically hold a gun to a patient's head and demand, 'Your money or your life.'"

"Big Pharma corporations are killing Americans by charging outrageous prices for prescription drugs," declared Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works. "We know why: These companies have spent a fortune on campaign spending and lobbying to get the U.S. government to act as their patent monopoly enforcers."

Democrats' House-approved Build Back Better Act—which contains some drug pricing reforms—has stalled in the Senate. Last week, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who takes money from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, blocked a vote on bill that would slash medication prices. Meanwhile, Big Pharma has hiked the costs of hundreds of drugs this year.

"We've all heard the stories of people rationing medicine, going without lifesaving prescriptions, and going broke trying to pay for their prescriptions," said Be a Hero co-founder Ady Barkan.

"It's preposterous, it's inhumane, and it's wrong," he continued. "President Biden and Secretary Becerra have the opportunity to win our freedom back from Big Pharma's grip on our healthcare by lowering drug prices now. We cannot wait for Congress. Lives are at stake. President Biden and Secretary Becerra have the authority and must act now."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—who joined campaign organizers for an online event hosted by act.tv—concurred that the Biden administration must take immediate action.

"One in four Americans struggle to afford their prescriptions and millions are rationing their medications because of costs while drug companies game the system to keep prices high and rake in profits," she said. "President Biden and Secretary Becerra can end this shameful price gouging by using their existing authorities to lower drug prices and crack down on the monopoly power of giant pharmaceutical companies—and they need to do it now."

PrEP4All co-founder Christian Antonio Urrutia pointed out that "Biden made a commitment to the American people that he would lower drug prices," and "he has yet to fulfill that promise."

Julia Santos, senior healthcare policy manager for Indivisible, said campaigners and people in need have a simple question for Biden and Becerra: "What are you waiting for?"


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