There are lifesaving cancer drugs available today that would have been deemed miraculous just a generation ago. These advanced medicines extend the lives of those who suffer through the disease, and even eradicate the cancerous cells that have taken many of our friends and family.
These drugs are also too expensive for middle class families and senior citizens desperate for some medical relief.
Even with Medicare prescription plans, our seniors are charged exorbitant co-pays that tally in the tens of thousands annually, according to a recent Washington Post article. The costs of these vital drugs are so steep that one in six Medicare recipients are not filling their prescriptions and avoiding the skyrocketing co-pay costs.
This isn’t right, and anyone who reads heartbreaking stories of families unable to afford life saving medications would agree. Why, when pharmaceutical companies receive untold millions of dollars from federal grants and nonprofit groups that raise money to advance cancer research, are these drugs priced so that only families in the upper echelons of wage earners can afford them?
Much of this medication is developed largely due to taxpayer-funded research. Money you and I pay to the federal government every April goes to the drug makers who – after decades of research and billions of dollars spent – have found ways to hopefully cure a once incurable disease.
But the pharmaceutical industry blames health insurance companies for the high costs of these drugs, saying the companies’ drug co-payments are much higher than other co-pay fees such as hospitalization.
This is especially tragic for our country’s senior citizens, who have worked hard their entire lives and deserve top-notch medical coverage in their golden years. But even with Medicare, these cancer medications have proven well out of reach for elderly men and women on fixed incomes. Many seniors budget their monthly incomes down to the penny. They have no way of shelling out a couple thousand every month for cancer medicine.
I sincerely hope the pharmaceutical industry takes note of how these high prices are affecting the lives of so many Americans. Forgoing cancer drug prescriptions, to put it bluntly, is a shortcut to an early grave. Decision makers on the federal and state level should find ways to get these important drugs into the hands of people who so desperately need them.
The miracle drugs are out there – now it’s time to expand access to the medication beyond the wealthy.
Del. Joseph "Sonny" Minnick (D -Dist. 6) can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.