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Healthcare Continues to be Unaffordable as Prescription Drug Prices Rise in 2021

March 30, 2021

The high and rising cost of prescription drugs is a huge barrier to affordable healthcare in Pennsylvania, and across the nation. Despite both Democrats and Republicans calling for prescription drug reform, drug companies continue to increase the prices of their most popular medications, forcing individuals to make heartbreaking decisions between paying for their medication or affording their most basic needs.

How Have Prescription Drug Prices Increased?
While individuals are struggling through a public health pandemic and economic crisis, drug companies have refused to adjust. Many people have lost their jobs or their source of income and are still expected to pay for the expensive prescriptions they need to survive.

GoodRx has reported that 816 drugs have increased by an average of 4.5% just in January 2021 alone. The majority of these drugs were already expensive and difficult for individuals to afford, even with health insurance.

Further, drug companies don’t always have a reason for the increase. For example, a new report from ICER shows out of 10 drugs that had the highest price increase in 2019, 7 had no evidence to justify the increase. We’ve seen before that drug companies are looking to increase their profits at the expense of individuals.

Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, drug companies are looking to make money. According to a report by Patients for Affordable Drugs, 245 prescription drugs increased in price between January and June of 2020, in the thick of the pandemic. More than 75% of those drugs are used as a treatment for COVID-19, limiting the ability of hospitals and individuals to recover from the virus.

How Does this Impact Pennsylvanians?
Unexpected and unexplained price hikes hit Pennsylvanians hardest at the pharmacy counter. In fact, 1 in 5 Pennsylvanians ends up cutting pills in half, skipping doses, or leaving prescriptions at the pharmacy, all because of cost. In many cases, individuals have had to choose between paying for their medication or paying for necessities like food, rent, and utilities.

When drug companies increase drug prices unexpectedly, families and seniors on a fixed income are left unable to plan for their expenses. Health plans must also compensate by increasing premiums and other out-of-pocket costs, making healthcare more expensive for everyone. Prescription drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them.

How Can Pennsylvania Take Action?
Pennsylvanians are advocating for a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which would gather data and information about the rising cost of drugs, and make recommendations on how to lower the cost, making healthcare more affordable for everyone.

PHAN strongly supports the passage of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board in Pennsylvania and urges the General Assembly to pass legislation that will make this happen immediately to provide relief to millions of Pennsylvanians.