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Demonstrators demand lower prescription drug costs in front of the New York Stock Exchange on November 14, 2019. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Dear Member of Congress: Lower Drug Prices Now or Lose Your Job

As we get closer to the midterm elections, voters across the country will remember the records of every other elected official who answered to Big Pharma and not the people.

Laura Packard

The voters of Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District made it clear that they will no longer tolerate elected officials who put the interests of Big Pharma over the lives of their own constituents. And the rest of Americans are not far behind.

It’s not too late for Congress to take action and pass legislation this summer through budget reconciliation to lower the cost of prescription drugs. But they must act now.

Seven-term Oregon Representative Kurt Schrader was one of the key votes in the U.S. House against an incredibly popular proposal to lower prescription drug prices. Given that in 2020 and 2021 pharmaceutical corporations donated more to Schrader's reelection than any other industry, his support for keeping drug prices high is no surprise. In return for his loyalty to Pharma over his own constituents, Oregonians voted him out of office in the primary, electing instead Jaime McLeod-Skinner.

In contrast to Schrader’s record, his challenger, McLeod-Skinner, promised to make affordable health care a priority once she is in office. She built her campaign around the idea that “Big Pharma can’t buy my vote.” Candidates like her are key to making access to affordable health care a reality for all Americans.

It is very rare for sitting Congresspeople to lose their re-election bids. But this year, many voters are full of anger at the lack of progress in Washington D.C. on just about every issue progressives care about. Every elected official should be concerned if they don’t have a record of real results for working families to run on.

This issue is personal for me, because the high cost of prescription drugs nearly killed me. I’m a cancer survivor, and after my first chemotherapy session, my doctor prescribed a medication to help my immune system recover faster. It was $13,000, and insurance didn’t cover it. So I wound up in the hospital with a dangerous infection for an entire week, and almost died. Nobody should have to live like this in the richest country in the world.

Americans have had enough of elected officials like Schrader, who talked a good game in his campaign ads about lowering the cost of drugs, but his voting record revealed otherwise. Even though he dramatically outspent McLeod-Skinner, in the end the race wasn’t even close – with McLeod-Skinner on track to receive nearly 56% of votes cast.

Note that Schrader’s fellow obstructionist Reps. Kathleen Rice and Stephanie Murphy have retired rather than face the voters. They are both on record voting against lower drug prices last year.

America pays more than any other country for our medications, many of which were invented here. Congress started work to lower drug prices last year through the Build Back Better bill, but Reps. Schrader, Rice, Peters and Murphy worked to water down the original plan. It did eventually pass the House, but Senators Manchin and Sinema effectively killed off Build Back Better in the Senate. This is not the hope and change we voted for.

Americans are fed up with the excuses and lack of results from their elected officials.

Half of the public says that President Biden and Democrats in Congress deserve most of the blame if Congress is unable to pass prescription drug legislation, according to Kaiser Family Foundation polling.

It’s not too late for Congress to take action and pass legislation this summer through budget reconciliation to lower the cost of prescription drugs. But they must act now. No more excuses, no more Big Pharma handouts overpowering constituent voices.

As we get closer to the midterm elections, voters across the country will remember the records of every other elected official who answered to Big Pharma and not the people. We will vote for those who are committed to being health care champions, and vote against those who are not.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Laura Packard

Laura Packard

Laura Packard is a Denver-based health care advocate and founder of Health Care Voices, a non-profit grassroots organization for adults with serious medical conditions, senior advisor to Be a Hero and co-chair of Health Care Voter.

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