State officials tackle high drug prices at Weston forum
WESTON — Skyrocketing prices for prescription drugs as well as pharmaceutical companies were topics tackled by state officials and medical experts in a forum at Weston Town Hall on Tuesday.
“One of the most frequently cited concerns across the district, and I believe across the state, is the in-affordability of healthcare across all sectors,” said state Rep. Anne Hughes, D-Weston. “We are in a unique position in Connecticut, I believe, with this kind of determination and the public’s will behind us to offer some kind of solution.”
Hughes was joined by Attorney General William Tong, state Sen. Will Haskell, state Sen. Matt Lesser, state Rep. Sean Scanlon, First Selectman Chris Spaulding and more.
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Tong has been active in leading a coalition of over 40 states against Teva Pharmaceuticals and 19 of the nation’s largest generic drug manufacturers alleging prices were artificially inflated and manipulated.
According to Tong through an investigation records were found showing competitors worked in unison to set prices.
“I don’t think you have to be a lawyer or brain surgeon to know it’s highly illegal in this country for big companies or competitors to collude on price,” he said.
Tong said rampant and brazen price fixing as well as market allocation was being witnessed across the industry. He added through this scheme and conspiracy billions of dollars have been stolen from everyone.
“We’re left with only one conclusion,” Tong said. “That is the generic drug industry is the largest corporate cartel in history.”
State officials also spoke of how the trickle down effect of this conspiracy has heavily impacted health care costs. Lesser noted the country had the highest drug costs in the world.
“If you go just a few miles away to Canada you’ll find that we’re paying in some cases ten times for the exact same pharmaceuticals that other people around the world are paying,” he said, adding this was the largest contributor to health care costs increasing.
Lesser said one possible solution is bringing in safe and affordable prescription drugs from Canada. He added for the first time the United States’ Department of Health has opened its doors to this opportunity, and noted many states have already begun taking advantage of this.
For Haskell, he noted how often this issue came up during his campaign for the senate seat.
“It’s not specific to one age group. It’s not specific to one political party. It’s not specific to one socioeconomic group,” Haskell said. “Instead, everyone is struggling to afford prescription medication and particularly generic drugs.”
He added there are currently 52 registered lobbyists in the state of Connecticut working for pharmaceutical companies.
“That makes a big difference and it’s a huge impediment to meaningful progress,” he said.
Medical professional in attendance also spoke to the impact of skyrocketing prices. Leslie Miller, president of Fairfield Medical Association, said generic drugs were supposed to be inexpensive drugs for patients. She added this has created barriers for doctors in providing the best service for well-deserved patients.
“We are no longer choosing the drug we need to do, we’re choosing the drug that outside powers are making us do,” she said, adding she hoped doctors would be re-empowered in their roles.
Claudia Gruss, a Fairfield county gastroenterologist, echoed Miller’s sentiments.
“Doctors are in the trenches on the front lines trying to give the best care to their patients,” she said, adding some patients pay $5,000 a month in medication.
Tong noted the importance of the discussion stating everyone was connected to the issue.
“It’s profound in its scope in that it touches everyone of us in our everyday lives,” he said. “That’s why it’s so damaging to all our families and our economy.”