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Guest Column: Big Pharma Can Spare Some Change To Make Drugs More Affordable

Janet Kerrigan: “Medicare drug price negotiations will help give power to consumers and ease the burden on their checkbooks.”


South Carolinians are tough people who can do anything they put their mind to. However, large pharmaceutical corporations are holding us back. They are eating away at our paychecks by charging outrageous prices for life-saving prescription drugs. We need pharmaceutical companies to be on our side, but instead, they take advantage of our vulnerability for their own financial gain. South Carolina has had enough of high prescription drug prices.

Thankfully, the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress last year finally allows Medicare, the nation’s largest health insurance plan, to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Negotiations have already started for 10 of the most expensive treatments, with up to 50 new treatments being selected for negotiations in the years ahead. This makes a critical first step at ensuring that Big Pharma can’t set whatever high prices they want for Medicare beneficiaries.

As expected, Big Pharma is pulling out all the stops to push back on this much-needed progress. These monopolistic companies claim that they require the profits raised from high drug prices to research and develop new drugs. This is false, but Big Pharma uses their deep pockets to spread this lie in the media both locally and nationally. 

Big Pharma’s false messaging has even shown up here in South Carolina. For example, The Post and Courier recently published an op-ed titled “A Tragic Day for American Patients” in which the author criticized the Inflation Reduction Act’s policy allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. The author claimed the negotiations would restrict access to existing medicines and stifle the development of new ones. This is the same argument that Big Pharma always employs whenever there are efforts to make prescriptions more affordable for South Carolinians. 



I’m going to tell you the truth. First, Medicare drug price negotiations make existing drugs more accessible, not less, because patients like me will finally be able to afford them.

More importantly, this policy does not cut into pharmaceutical companies’ ability to innovate. According to the Congressional Budget Office, negotiations would reduce the number of new drugs by fewer than 13 over the next 30 years, during which pharmaceutical companies will produce over 1300. Since many of these “new” drugs are just existing drugs with inconsequential changes – and aren’t actually innovative treatments – the actual number of new treatments reduced by these negotiations will likely be even lower. Considering how exorbitantly Big Pharma spends on advertising, stock buybacks, acquisitions, and media, they certainly have the budget to keep developing new medications. In other words, Big Pharma intentionally spreads lies and foments fear among the American people to keep their prices high.

Big Pharma and its defenders cry foul every time something threatens their power to dictate prices to the American people. But now, South Carolinians aren’t buying it. Medicare drug price negotiations simply force pharmaceutical companies to play by the same rules of the free-market system that everyone else does. In a free market, no one gets to set their own price – supply and demand set prices. Medicare drug price negotiations will help give power to consumers and ease the burden on their checkbooks. 

Drug prices for essential, life-saving medications are finally coming down. Don’t listen to Big Pharma – the new law is a great win for American patients.



Janet Kerrigan is a cancer survivor from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.



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1 comment

Red Uprising January 5, 2024 at 11:31 am

Less “pwease pwease only charge us triple and not ten times the cost” and more “you no longer have IP rights over your drug and we’re going to produce a generic from a public-run pharmaceutical operation and sell them at cost plus 10%” for the greedy corporations.


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