WATCH: Sen. Kelly Chairs Hearing on Lowering Prescription Drug Prices in Phoenix

Today, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly chaired a U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing in Phoenix focused on lowering rising prescription drug costs. During the hearing, Kelly heard testimonies from Arizona experts, advocates, and patients impacted by rising prescription drug prices and how Kelly’s plan to lower prescription drug prices would benefit Arizona seniors. A Kelly-backed bill to cap the monthly price of insulin at $35 that recently passed the House of Representatives, and Kelly is also working to bring down prescription drug costs by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices of certain high-cost drugs, and ensure that drug companies can’t raise the prices at a pace faster than inflation. 

The Arizona witnesses included Dora Vasquez, Executive Director for the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans; Dr. Suganya Karuppana, Chief Medical Operations Officer at Valle del Sol; Dana Kennedy, AARP Arizona State Director; Jenny Peña, Associate Manager of Pharmacy Patient Advocacy, Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center; and Judy Wilson, a retiree who shared her experience living with multiple sclerosis. 

Kelly, member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, during a hearing in Phoenix

Read key excerpts from Kelly and witness testimony during the hearing on lowering prescription drug costs:

Sen. Kelly on the alarming rise of prescription drug prices, action in Congress:

[…] From 2012 to 2017, the average cost of prescription drug treatment in Arizona increased by almost 58 percent. The costs are going up and this should alarm all of us. That is why we are here today, and that’s why I’ve worked on solutions to drive down the cost of prescription drugs. Just in the past couple of weeks, the House of Representatives passed a bill, which I’m a cosponsor of, that would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $35 per month. Now, as many of you know, insulin is a drug that is not optional if you are a Type 1 diabetic. You need it to survive, and many people take it for decades, and they do. Yet Americans pay ten times more for it than many other countries. We’re working to change that. […]

Dana Kennedy, AARP Arizona State Director, on higher health care costs, Kelly’s leadership to lower costs for seniors:

[…] These escalating costs will eventually affect all of us in the form of higher health care costs, higher taxes, cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, or all of the above. In other words: every single American taxpayer is paying for high prescription drug prices, regardless of whether you are taking medicine or not. 

There is long-standing and overwhelming bipartisan support among voters for allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. The policies before the Senate that Senator Kelly is leading on – including Medicare negotiation, capping out-of-pocket costs under Medicare Part D, and penalizing drug companies that increase their prices faster than inflation – will provide long-overdue relief to older Americans across the country. These policies, taken together, will help reduce drug prices and out-of-pocket costs. This is important because real relief for seniors and all Americans must include policies that get to the root of the problem: the high prices set by drug companies. […]  

Dr. Suganya Karuppana on Kelly’s plan to lower prescription drug costs:

[…] In some cases, patients ask for treatment regimens that are not evidence-based in order to make it more affordable. Those same patients with moderate resources may ration the treatment in order to afford it. So how do we address these issues? There are several prescription drug policy changes proposed by Senator Kelly that could improve the lives of my patients. For example, allowing the federal government to negotiate prices for [some] high-cost drugs covered under Medicare Part B and D. Redesigning the Part D benefit to create a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket costs is much more reasonable than today’s coverage gap. And capping copays on insulin at $35 will make lifesaving diabetes treatment more accessible. […]

Judy Wilson, Arizona senior, on the financial impact of rising prescription drug costs:

[…] After discussions with my doctor, I decided to go off my medications. I didn’t have any other options and have so far been very lucky that I haven’t had any relapses or other setbacks. But I want to emphasize that the decision to stop my medication was based on money, not medicine. If I could afford to go back on Copaxone, I would. MS is extremely unpredictable, and just because I have been healthy so far does not necessarily guarantee that I will not have a relapse in the future. For most living with MS, a gap in medication could mean disease progression, and that could lead to a permanent loss of mobility or cognitive function. This is a risk I take daily. No one should have to take this risk because they cannot afford the medications they need. […]

Jenny Peña, patient advocate, on the urgency of passing legislation to bring down health care costs:

[…] I recognize that many medical facilities do not have roles like mine designated for patient advocacy. My role in helping patients access their medications is extremely important, and it’s something I am so passionate about. But to be honest, this should not be necessary. I believe that everyone deserves access to affordable prescription drugs despite their age, income, socioeconomic status, or race. Congress has to do more to make sure people can access the care and treatment that they need. I am encouraged by the fact that I’m here today to advocate for solutions. […] 

Dora Vasquez, Executive Director for the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans, on Kelly’s leadership to cut costs for Arizona seniors:

[…] The Arizona Alliance strongly supports efforts to eliminate waste and reduce drug costs in Medicare’s prescription drug benefits plans and the system’s finances overall and opposes proposals that shift any additional costs to beneficiaries. We support the fundamental goals of this hearing, namely, to demonstrate the harm that exceedingly high prescription drug prices cause senior citizens and the American economy. 

Senator Kelly has been a leader in the effort to lower the cost of prescription drugs through Medicare negotiation; out of pocket caps; and a Part D redesign that includes a cap on the price of insulin. All of these tools are needed to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. […]