November 2, 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – West Health President and Chief Executive Officer, Shelley Lyford, issued the following statement after a drug pricing reform agreement was reached as part of the Build Back Better legislation. West Health is a family of nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations dedicated to lowering healthcare costs to improve aging in America.
“Today marks an important milestone in the long-fought battle to rein in the excessive prices of prescription drugs. We find ourselves in an entirely different position than we did just five days ago when prescription drug reform was left out of the Build Back Better framework. While this agreement is not everything we hoped for, it’s the first time in our nation’s history Medicare will be empowered to negotiate prices for the most expensive drugs, which means seniors will experience significant relief at the pharmacy counter with a strong out-of-pocket cap, and price gouging by the pharmaceutical industry will cease through inflation penalties.
We know arriving at this point was not easy. It is the culmination of years of hard work, research, and advocacy that has brought us to this moment, and we applaud the Congressional leaders who have been working tirelessly to put the needs of seniors, their families, and American taxpayers first – before profits.
At the same time, we are concerned that the agreement will not go far enough, fast enough. The epidemic of high drug costs will not pause while we wait for negotiation to begin. Without lower costs, next year, alone, more than 100,000 seniors will die because they cannot afford their medications. Families will continue making impossible choices between food and medicine, and others will draw down savings accounts and resources in an effort to maintain their health. Meanwhile, beginning inflation penalties at 2021 rates will only slow price growth – it will do nothing to roll back the years of egregious price increases by Big Pharma. Americans need relief now and stronger protections are necessary to restrict the industry from continuing to prey on American families who are not covered by Medicare.
We see today’s agreement as a positive step forward, but it falls far short of the bold reform that is needed. With razor thin margins in the House and Senate and a powerful pharmaceutical lobby that has a stronghold over Congress this is the best that could be achieved at this moment. However, our work is far from finished.”