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Opinion | Michigan needs state drug board to combat rising prices, greed

The rising cost of prescription drugs is a crisis for Michigan families. Democrats at the state and federal levels have been working hard to tackle this issue head-on and hold big drug companies accountable.

Michigan Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet
Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet represents Michigan Senate District 35 which includes Bay City, Midland, Saginaw and surrounding townships in the Great Lakes Bay Region.

As elected leaders, we often hear from constituents that prescription drug prices are an urgent matter that needs to be addressed, and I wholeheartedly agree. The Michigan Prescription Drug Task Force found nearly a third of residents aged 19-64 stopped taking their prescriptions because of cost. 

In Michigan, we saw the cost of 500 prescription drugs rise at twice the rate of inflation during the pandemic in 2020. During a time when we’ve seen the cost of groceries and other essentials rise, the price of many prescription drugs continued to skyrocket well beyond the rate of inflation. The corporate greed by drug companies at the expense of our health and livelihoods must stop. 

This is not acceptable. 

Families should not have to pick between buying groceries or paying for their life-saving medication. Patients should not end up in an emergency room because they cannot afford the necessary prescriptions to manage their health conditions. 

Scientific advancement has brought us so many prescription drugs that help people achieve a better quality of life. It is shameful and upsetting that these game-changing medicines remain out of reach to many because of high prices, outrageous profits and plain corporate greed. 

In Michigan, we have made some strides to bring transparency to drug pricing and rein in costs. We all know there is more work to be done. 

That is why I have introduced legislation as part of a package (Senate Bills 483, 484, and 485), which will create the Prescription Drug Affordability Board and ensure it is made up of nonpartisan leaders in health care economics, health policy, and clinical medicine with no personal or financial stake in the pharmaceutical industry. 

There will be strict rules to prevent politicians, Big Pharma, and health care industry or special interest groups from influencing the board’s decisions. 

A truly independent board is what makes this work. 

We have seen recent progress at the federal level. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act allows Medicare to negotiate prices on certain high-cost prescription drugs like insulin for seniors.  

This policy marks a major win for consumers. I was disappointed, though not surprised, when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and drug companies Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb filed lawsuits to block this law to protect industry profits over people. 

The Medicare prescription negotiation program would rein in out-of-control drug prices and allow these medications to serve their purpose by getting into the hands of more Americans who need them to live and thrive.  

While I am confident the law will stand up in court, these lawsuits serve as yet another reminder of the need to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable. 

As the Legislature is in session this fall, advancing the PDAB legislative package that will rein in the rising cost of prescription drugs will be one of my top priorities. In the meantime, I welcome citizens struggling with the high price of prescription drugs to contact my office and share your stories.  

Working together, we can tackle this critical issue and bring relief to the Michiganders struggling to keep up with the rising cost of their medicine.  

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