Neal Opening Statement at Hearing on the Cost of Rising Prescription Drug Prices
(As prepared for delivery)
Good morning and welcome to our witnesses and audience members. Thank you everyone for being here today.
Before we begin, I want to take a moment to extend condolences to John Dingell’s family, including his wife, our colleague, Debbie Dingell. John loved the House of Representatives, his constituents, and above all, this country. Today’s hearing is a fitting one to pay tribute to him because during his decades of service in Congress, among many other things, he worked to ensure Americans had access to safe, high-quality medication. It was a privilege to have been his colleague in the House.
As John was aware, the availability of safe high quality medication means nothing if Americans are forced to choose between refilling their prescription and paying rent or putting food on the table. Americans are fed up with the rising price of drugs as more and more people simply cannot afford lifesaving medications.
While health care innovation is part of the economic fabric of my home state of Massachusetts, and medical research has opened the door to numerous breakthroughs, the high cost of this innovation often gets excessively passed to the consumer.
For example, let me tell you about Jocelyn who lives in Springfield, Massachusetts in my district. She was given a prescription for a drug but cannot afford the $600 a month price tag. There is no other drug that works for her health situation and it has caused her to go into a severe depression because there is nothing more she can do to afford her treatment.
One of the challenges we face is understanding the underlying problem. The drug companies point to the PBMs – who point to the insurance companies – who point to the hospitals. The one group that is not the problem - but is the biggest victim – is the patients.
This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It crosses the political spectrum. In fact, the President recently expressed his intent to address drug prices. If we are on the same page on this, there clearly is a problem! And recently, Republican Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker expressed his concern in an Op-Ed in the Boston Globe.
On my part, I have already kick started these discussions with HHS Secretary Azar. I intend to keep that line of communication open so we can find a realistic, sustainable outcome.
We have five excellent witnesses here today, and the main message I want my colleagues to take away from these next few hours is that there is no one single solution.
The problem is complex, and Congress will need a multi-pronged approach to address it: we will need to change policies and incentives in the FDA, CMS, and potentially even look in the tax code. We need to change incentives within the system, and at the heart of this is the patient who needs relief.
I am certain that with the information we learn today, coupled with continued thoughtful discussions, we can craft policies that will bring down drug prices. Americans are desperate for a solution to help them afford the quality, life-saving medications they need and deserve. And we have a responsibility to act.
And with that I will recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Brady for an opening statement.