RICHMOND, Va. — In case you missed it, over the past week, the Virginian-Pilot and VPM both profiled Virginians who are struggling with high prescription drug costs. Jenaya Moore, a VCU graduate student with asthma, and Jillian Goodwin, a cystic fibrosis patient and advocate from Norfolk, both would benefit from a Prescription Drug Affordability Board with the power to cap prices of the most expensive medicines.
Despite garnering significant bipartisan support in the Senate, legislation that would have created the entity was voted down by Republicans on a House Subcommittee last week. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) had the backing of a broad range of groups, including AARP Virginia, the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Virginia Association of Counties and the Commonwealth Council on Aging.
A 2022 poll from Mason-Dixon found that 82% of Virginians favor the creation of a Prescription Affordability Board. Seven other states, including neighboring Maryland, have created these boards under Democratic and Republican governors alike.
Virginia bill that would create drug price review board fails to advance in General Assembly
By Ian Munro
Jillian Goodwin was 3 when she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. She’s benefited from breakthroughs in drug research and paid high prices for them.
“I’ve been on prescription medications my entire life,” said the Norfolk woman, who’s now 31. “That’s all I’ve ever known. I take about 15 to 16 different medications a day. At times, that’s been as high as 25 a day and some of them are pretty big ticket drugs that there’s not alternatives to.”
Though Goodwin has good insurance, it sometimes can be difficult when her prescriptions will be available and for how much.
“It’s terrifying to contemplate that you have this medicine that is available to you that helps so much but can I even get it and can I afford it?” Goodwin said.
A bill that would attempt to change that failed again to advance in the General Assembly on Thursday. It would create a drug pricing board that could review the costs of prescription medications.
For Goodwin, the Norfolk cystic fibrosis patient and advocate, the plan is a step forward.
“Yes, it takes money to get there and you don’t want to deincentivize the pharmaceutical companies from taking risks with their research and development,” she said. “But I think that my point is we’ve got to find a middle ground where you’re still able to take the risks for research and development and bring new, innovative things to market but not withhold what is absolutely a critical resource to the patient themselves.”
Read the full article from the Virginian-Pilot HERE.
Virginians struggle with rising prescription drug prices
By Megan Pauly
The pandemic brought about widespread increases in prescription drug prices. For VCU graduate student Jenaya Moore, that’s meant choosing between her monthly supply of asthma medication and keeping the lights on.
“It is so far out of my budget to the point where my medication is costing as much as my electricity bill,” Moore told VPM News. “I honestly have not been able to get my inhaler medication like how I used to.”
Sometime in 2020, she said she noticed her prescription for Symbicort, a powdered steroid inhaler, triple in price to about $300 a month. For Moore, who supports herself financially and is putting herself through college in public administration, that often means choosing to go without her medications.
“I basically called my physician and said, ‘Just cut off my refill for right now until I’m able to actually afford it,’” Moore said. “And I’ll basically get it right now on an as-needed basis.”
In 2021, she took on an additional part-time job — bumping up her hours from 40 per week to around 60-65 on top of school. Even with the extra income, she said she can only afford to purchase her medications occasionally.
Moore was hoping legislation would pass during this year’s General Assembly session to create a prescription drug affordability board in Virginia, which could then review medications like hers and decide if prices should be capped.
While she said she’s mostly been able to manage her asthma without significant flare-ups so far, she’s worried it could get worse at any point if she can’t access her medicine regularly. Her first flare-up — when she was diagnosed with chronic asthma in her teens — was so bad she said it landed her in the emergency room.
“It just kind of came out of nowhere, and it hit me really hard,” Moore said. “Just being able to have my supply at an affordable cost like I need to on a regular basis will help alleviate a lot of my worries.”
Rhena Hicks, executive director for Freedom Virginia — an advocacy organization dedicated to issues of financial security — noted the bill specified the board would have consisted of health care experts with no ties to pharmaceutical companies, and that companies would’ve had the opportunity to justify the reasoning for significant drug price increases to the board before a ruling on potential price caps.
“I think the governor wants to stand with big pharma,” Hicks told VPM News, noting that the Youngkin Inaugural Committee 2022 received a $10,000 campaign contribution from Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America. The House Republican Campaign Committee also received a $10,000 donation from the same group — as did Speaker of the House Todd Gilbert (R–Shenandoah).
The pharmaceutical group also donated $2,500 each to the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus and the Democratic caucuses for both chambers, in addition to numerous donations to other lawmakers from both parties.
“He [Youngkin] ran on lowering costs for Virginians and these kitchen table issues. I don’t know how much more kitchen table you get than someone’s medicine that they take to survive,” Hicks said.
She said a number of other states like Maryland, Colorado and Oregon have already taken steps to implement similar drug review boards — which she said are a fairly new concept. Hicks hopes Virginia will soon follow in their footsteps.
“We’ve got to start somewhere, and these drugs are hitting the market at just an unattainable price,” Hicks said.
Read the full article from VPM HERE.