We need a Prescription Drug Affordability Board.
I’m Jessica. I’m asking you to email your state senator right now, and tell them to support the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. As a Minnesotan with a chronic illness, I know how crucial — and how brutally expensive — prescription drugs can be.
My story started nearly 10 years ago when I was a healthy 31-year-old, and my husband and I decided to have children. Four weeks into my pregnancy, my fingers started hurting. Each day got worse, and within a few months my joints were so stiff and swollen that I could not make a fist. I was 7 months pregnant when I first saw a rheumatologist. By then, my disease was so bad that he diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis from across the room.
I went home. I cried. Twenty-two days later, I delivered our child. And I have required care for every day of the more than 9 years since.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a vicious disease that makes a person’s immune system turn on itself. My body ate holes into my bones. Untreated, it is incredibly painful. Just turning a key in a lock felt like my knuckles would split open.
When I was diagnosed, my doctor told me that my disease will never go away. I was fortunate to find a medication that helps control it. But the pharmaceutical corporation charges patients like me $56,000 per year for that drug. Each year. For the rest of my life. That’s more than $155 per day.
I have no choice. I have to find a way to pay that obscene price because if I don’t, my joints will swell and stiffen, my mobility will decline, my pain will skyrocket, and I can’t be the citizen, small-business owner, and mom that my family and others in our community depend on.
So this year, I’ll pay my insurer over $14,000 out of my family’s budget to pay the ransom the drug company has demanded for my life. Then, my insurer will raise your premiums to help cover the cost of the medicine I need.
Each step in this shell game — from the drug manufacturer, to insurance companies, to pharmacy benefit managers — ratchets costs higher. It’s time to stop and ask who is really benefiting from this system. As a person with a chronic illness, I can tell you: it’s not Minnesotans like you and me.
That’s why we need the Prescription Drug Affordability Board. It’s time to change the rules and create a body that asks why prescription drugs are priced so high and starts getting these costs under control.
The House has already passed the Board as part of the omnibus Commerce bill. That’s a huge victory. Now, it’s time for the Senate to step up and do their part. We need to tell them to pick a side: Minnesota’s families or Big Pharma’s profits.
Jessica Intermill (she/her)