Public News Service: Virginia Forum Tackles Exploding Prescription Prices

PUBLIC NEWS SERVICE

No one should have to choose between food and medicine, and that crucial choice will be addressed at a public forum in Glen Allen on Tuesday on the exploding cost of prescription drugs.

The event will feature U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Virginia (7th District), taking public questions and comments about how people are dealing with these costs to help her inform her proposals for addressing the issue.

David DeBiasi, associate state director for advocacy with AARP Virginia, cosponsor of the event, said skyrocketing drug costs have hit folks in Virginia especially hard.

“Nearly a third of all Virginians have stopped taking a medicine as prescribed due to cost,” DeBiasi said. “And a kind of shocking fact: prices rose by nearly 60% between 2012 and 2017.”

He pointed out that during that same period, the annual income for Virginians only increased about 9%.

The forum will take place in the Glen Allen Branch Library from 4:00-5:00 p.m. More information is available on the AARP Virginia Facebook page.

DeBiasi said his organization is backing drug pricing legislation in Congress, including a bill introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would allow some direct price negotiations between the government and pharmaceutical companies.

But with no guarantee anything will pass before year’s end, folks like Marlene Condon of central Virginia will continue to pay steep prices for medication. Condon said she’s struggled over the years to pay for her monthly prescriptions on a fixed income. One of the drugs she takes is a generic, but Condon said it still pricey.

“Even being on a prescription plan through insurance, I was still expected to pay hundreds of dollars for some of these drugs,” Condon said. “The hydroxychloroquine was over $500, and the methotrexate was over $200.”

She said she now only takes one of them, so her monthly expense is lower, but still costly. Rep. Spanberger’s bill to make drug-price negotiations more transparent and to lower costs recently passed the U.S. House with a unanimous vote. It now moves on for a Senate vote.

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