In Response: Minnesota drug board would save money, lives

From the column: "This board would work like our Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to check the monopoly power of drug companies."

Bob Englehart/Cagle Cartoons

The skyrocketing prices of prescription drugs are affecting people and their families across Minnesota, regardless of where you live or your political beliefs.

A recent survey found nearly half of Minnesotans are worried about prescription-drug costs, and more than one in five residents have recently rationed prescription medicines due to cost. Skipping and rationing your prescription drugs can be deadly. Prescription drugs don’t work if you can’t afford them.

The idea that drug prices and the time it takes to produce new medicines increase in part from governance and accountability, as a March 23 commentary in the News Tribune argued, simply is not true.

As a matter of fact, most new drugs are developed by state-funded laboratories in colleges, and pharmaceutical companies buy rights to them afterwards. These innovative medicines and delivery systems are the result of significant and ongoing investment in research and development at taxpayers’ expense.

A report by the Health Care Cost Institute found that per-person spending on medicines has nearly doubled since 2016. It's not that individuals are using more medicines or that new products are particularly innovative or provide immense benefits; it’s that use is flat, and the price changes are occurring in both older and newer products. The exact same products are costing double or triple in most cases.


These price increases are for the exact same medicines and devices that have been around for decades.

Additionally, pharmaceutical companies spend far more on advertising and marketing than they do on research and development. For example, Sanofi spent $9.1 billion on sales and marketing in 2013 alone, compared to Eli Lilly’s spending of $5.7 billion on sales and marketing.

We need to do more to bring down costs and rein in excessive price increases by greedy pharmaceutical companies. Thankfully, there are solutions. Minnesota recently brought together patients, experts, and bipartisan legislators to form a nationally awarded Task Force on Lowering Pharmaceutical Drug Costs.

That task force’s No. 1 recommendation was establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to serve as a watchdog and set upper payment limits for high-cost drugs. This board would work like our Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to check the monopoly power of drug companies. Initial estimates are that these measures could lower some drug costs by 25% to 70%, saving patients thousands of dollars a year, which, in turn, could save lives.

I urge lawmakers to side with Minnesotans, not Big Pharma, and create a drug affordability board that would save money and lives.

Travis Paulson of Eveleth is a DFL Party organizer who ran last year to represent District 7 in the Minnesota Senate.

Travis Paulson.jpg
Travis Paulson

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