Peters Announces Investigation into Rising Prescription Drug Costs

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, today announced he is conducting an investigation into the rising costs of prescription drugs and the short supply of critical medications affecting hospitals and patients throughout the country. Unaffordable prescription and hospital-administered drugs, and the increasing number and length of drug shortages, have become an economic, national security and public health crisis for families in Michigan and across the country. Peters’ investigation seeks to identify solutions to address increasing drug costs, the effect of drug shortages on patient care, and the national security implications of America’s growing reliance on drugs manufactured in China and India. Peters’ announcement follows a series of roundtable discussions he held in Michigan last month, where he heard from local health care providers and families struggling with high prescription drug costs.

“Families should never be forced to choose between paying their bills or getting the medication they need, and doctors should never have to worry they won’t have the right medicine when their patients need it most,” said Senator Peters. “This prescription drug crisis raises serious health, economic and national security threats to patients and health care providers. My investigation will help us get to the root of these challenges so we can address this crisis and ensure that families in Michigan and across the country can get the quality, affordable care they need.” 

Prices for top-selling brand name drugs in the United States increased 68% between 2012 and 2018 – making many critical medications financially out of reach for families. In 2017, the list price for a one-year supply of Humira – the number one selling brand name drug that treats arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease – was over $58,000, which is more than the annual median household income in Michigan. Other common, lifesaving medications like insulin have seen an average price increase of 55% since 2014.

Drug shortages can also lead to price increases, and put patients at risk of not being able to get critical, lifesaving drugs. In recent years, shortages have led to added hospital administration costs, forced changes to the source and type of drugs administered, or even, in limited circumstances, rationing by hospitals, health care providers, and pharmacists. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), there are currently 265 drugs in active shortage – the highest level in almost five years. These drugs include generics for treating anxiety and depression, anti-inflammatory medications, specialized cancer and immune disorder treatments, and other critical drugs administered in hospitals. Currently, there is a devastating shortage of Vincristine, a lifesaving pediatric cancer drug with no alternative, and Heparin, an essential drug for performing open heart surgeries and kidney dialysis.

Our country’s reliance on drugs produced outside of the United States poses serious national security and public health risks. Approximately 80% of the active ingredients used to make the majority of drugs sold in the United States originate overseas, predominately in China and India. In recent years, popular prescription blood pressure medications and common over the counter heartburn medications manufactured overseas have been recalled after a likely carcinogen was found in the drugs. As shortages have become more common, the FDA has allowed previously banned drugs due to fears of shortages – which could further put American health at risk. Through his investigation, Senator Peters seeks to identify solutions to address these serious risks and lower costs for consumers.

Peters is working to reduce health care and prescription drug costs for families in Michigan and across the country. In August, Peters sent a letter to the FDA pressing them on their efforts to counter drug shortages. In July, Peters-led provisions to lower health care costs for seniors advanced in the Senate. This past January, Peters helped introduce legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prices on behalf of over 2 million Michiganders eligible for enrollment in Medicare Part D. Last Congress, Peters urged the Trump Administration to implement a rule holding drug companies accountable for overcharging for prescription drugs.