- A consumer group calls on pharmaceutical companies to freeze drug prices during the COVID-19 pandemic and says the U.S. government should regulate medicine cost increases.
- The U.S. pharmaceutical industry has increased prices for existing drugs on a yearly basis, which hurts consumers, says an advocacy group.
- Drug prices are estimated to go up by an average of 5.2% in 2020, even as the pandemic has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs.
Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, urged pharmaceutical companies to freeze drug prices during the COVID-19 pandemic and says the U.S. government should step in to regulate the industry’s product price-hikes.
The Washington, D.C.-based non-profit says the U.S. pharmaceutical industry has been able to increase prices for existing drugs on a yearly basis, which causes hardships for Americans taking medication such as the rheumatoid arthritis drug Humira by AbbVie Inc. and Pfizer Inc.’s epilepsy treatment drug Lyrica.
AbbVie and Pfizer did not respond to a request for comment.
The cost of drugs is estimated to go up by an average of 5.2% this year, AARP reported.
The authorities need to step in, says Zain Rizvi, a law and policy researcher at Public Citizen. “The pharmaceutical industry is able to jack up prices on drugs that are already on the market year after year and it hurts consumers,” Rizvi told Karma. “The U.S. government has [to] step in and be willing to address the monopoly power of pharmaceutical corporations.”
There are several pieces of legislation that would limit drug price increases and those should be adopted, say consumer advocates. The House of Representatives passed the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, in late 2019, but the measure has yet to clear the Senate.
A spokesperson for Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland said the bill “is stalled in the Senate thanks to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
Meanwhile, Public Citizen sent about 20 letters to large pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline PLC., in April, asking them to not raise drug prices during the COVID-19 outbreak and an economic slump that has led to the U.S. unemployment rate reaching almost 13% in mid-April and more than 16 million Americans filing claims for being out of work, according to the Department of Labor. The next jobs report is due on Friday.
Public Citizen had not received responses from pharmaceutical companies as of May 5.
Nonetheless, investors are voicing concerns about increasing drug prices. Impact investors have long encouraged companies to consider all stakeholders, including their customers who have to pay the rising prices, as well as their shareholders. Most recently, Tim Dewane, a representative for the School Sisters of Notre Dame Central Pacific Province, which is part of the umbrella organization the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, asked Eli Lilly & Co., if the company will refrain from increasing drug prices during the pandemic.
Curbing rising drug prices has been a hot topic for voters and the Trump administration rolled out a program to tackle the matter in 2018.
But Rizvi says the White House’s effort has fallen short of its stated goals. “The Trump administration has really failed to deliver on lowering prescription drug prices,” he said.