Opinion: Prescription drug pricing reform not a partisan problem for West Virginians

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By Senator Ron Stollings, MD 

It’s been well documented over the past several months that U.S. Senator Joe Manchin continues to work hard to find reasonable compromises to the progressive spending programs facing Congress. However, one of the most vital issues he needs to address is how West Virginia residents are forced to pay exorbitant costs for many prescription drugs.

Senator Ron Stollings

Of all the policy proposals included in the reconciliation bill, prescription drug pricing reform cut through the noise as a bright spot for bipartisan agreement – and for good reason. For far too long, pharmaceutical companies have used shady tactics to hike their prices while everyday Americans are stuck footing the bill.

In West Virginia, the need for prescription drug pricing reform is particularly dire. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on our state, and rising inflation has loaded a major financial burden onto West Virginia businesses and families.

People in West Virginia are on fixed incomes. Many rely on small pensions and Social Security. Their buying power is shrinking, and I see it every day in my medical office. We have to help lower the cost of these prescriptions in any way possible.

In West Virginia, hundreds of thousands of people rely on prescription drugs to treat debilitating conditions like arthritis or high blood pressure and keep life-threatening diseases like cancer and diabetes at bay. But recently, it’s been tough for folks to receive the care they need at a price they can afford.

In 2018, total spending on Medicare Part D medications hit $4,058 per enrollee in West Virginia – $400 higher than the national average. Unfortunately, 41% of West Virginians know someone who has stopped taking prescription medications or have done so themselves because of prohibitive pricing.

Right now, West Virginians are fed up with high drug prices and the lack of accountability in the pharmaceutical industry. A recent poll found that 70% of West Virginians, including 70% of Republicans, believe the prices of prescription drugs are unreasonable, and the same percentage agree that elected officials need to pass legislation to bring down the cost. 

Now, Senator Manchin, who has a history of fighting hard to lower the cost of prescription medications, has the chance to deliver for West Virginians. In the past, he’s introduced bills to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and has worked with the Department of Health and Human Services to fight for affordable access to basic medications for low-income West Virginians.

Democrats currently have control of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, but any meaningful movement on the drug pricing reform front will require the support of Senator Manchin. He has a strong track record of working tirelessly to promote policies popular with every voter in West Virginia, and in the coming months he’ll have the opportunity to deliver the relief West Virginians desperately need.

Ron Stollings, M.D., is a state Senator representing the 7th Senate District and past president of the West Virginia State Medical Association.

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