Guest op-ed from Allison Bailey, a resident of Ames
At 12 years old I had to cope with a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, along with 10% of Iowans afflicted with this disease.
As a child, I never could have imagined how the pharmaceutical industry’s control over the cost of my insulin would become a massive issue throughout my life. And I certainly wouldn’t have imagined how the government’s inaction on drug pricing would not only affect my life-saving medicine, but also the future of our state’s public health if the government leaves unmitigated control of COVID-19 vaccine pricing in the hands of Big Pharma.
The Trump Administration already holds the power to ensure fair-priced prescription drugs and potential COVID-19 vaccines. Through the Government Patent Use statute, the federal government has the ability to break pharmaceutical monopolies on patents, keeping drug companies from charging outrageous amounts for medicines. But it hasn’t done so for crucial drugs like insulin, and if the Trump Administration allows pharma to charge whatever it wants for a COVID-19 vaccine, Iowans and the rest of the country will pay the consequences.
For a long time I never had to think about the shocking cost of my insulin while on my parents’ insurance or under my husband’s plan through the Marines. However, in 2016 I faced the stark reality that millions of Americans deal with every day: the cost of my life-saving medicine was more expensive than I could afford to pay. I stood at the pharmacy counter and discovered that pharmaceutical companies were charging me nearly $500 for one single form of insulin.
I had, as I believe most Americans do, always acknowledged in the back of my mind that patients with pre-existing conditions were disadvantaged financially by pharmaceutical companies. But until I was standing there overwhelmed with emotion at the pharmacy counter, I had never recognized how financially debilitating it was for so many American families — and now for mine.
At that moment, I realized something had to change. We, the citizens of one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, were unable to ensure that all Americans could acquire life-saving drugs without going bankrupt or putting our lives at risk to put food on the table.
For all the talk emanating from Washington, actions to control drug-pricing have been moot. Existing legislation only covers a sect of society and is prone to competing with other bills for the attention of legislators in the organized chaos of the United States Congress.
Americans with pre-existing conditions have long lived with the reality of pharmaceutical price gouging, but if drug companies are allowed to retain their unchecked patent power during the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, all Americans may soon know the tragedy of not being able to afford life-saving prescriptions due to exorbitant pricing.
Americans are tired of fighting for the affordable and accessible care we need. Our government must in turn fight for Americans, too, by standing up to Big Pharma – starting with the COVID-19 vaccine.
By Allison Bailey, Ames
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