Congressional Column: Sen. Claire McCaskill

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Congressional Column: Sen. Claire McCaskill

The Missouri Hospital Association invited each member of Missouri’s Congressional Delegation to share a column outlining their health care priorities. The first column submitted is from Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Twelve percent. That’s the average annual price increase for the top 20 most prescribed brand name drugs for seniors, based on a report I released through my Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. That twelve percent price increase is more than 10 times the average annual price of inflation. This is unstainable, and it’s unfair — and I’m working to stop it.

While drug prices continue to rise, Missouri taxpayers are subsidizing more and more of pharmaceutical companies’ advertising costs. That’s right — Americans are subsidizing more than $6 billion in fully tax-deductible prescription drug advertising costs. Taxpayers are the ones on the hook, paying for the ads we see every time we turn on the TV. With drug companies continuing to raise the prices of life-saving drugs, I think the least we can do is stop making Americans pay for them to advertise those drugs. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to eliminate this tax deduction.

But that’s just one step I’m taking to help lower the cost of prescription drugs.

During my time as the top Democrat on the Senate Aging Committee, I joined Republican Committee Chairman Susan Collins to launch an in-depth investigation into prescription drug price increases. That report led to bipartisan legislation — signed by President Trump and now law — to increase competition for generics and help lower costs and improve the accessibility of decades-old prescription drugs.

Senator Collins and I teamed up again to introduce legislation to ban “pharmacy gag clauses” that prevent pharmacists from telling consumers if their prescription would cost less if they paid for it out of pocket rather than using their insurance. I think it’s common sense that a pharmacist should be able to tell patients about more affordable ways to get the drugs they need.

I’ve conducted oversight of naloxone manufactures and asked them what they are doing to increase affordability and access to this life-saving anti-opioid drug. I’m working with Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan to expand access to opioid treatment in rural communities by asking the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue a new rule allowing doctors, nurses or other practitioners to obtain a “special registration” to prescribe controlled substances used as part of opioid addiction treatment via telemedicine.

I’ve also launched a comprehensive Congressional investigation into the opioid crisis, requesting documents from opioid manufacturers and distributors — looking at their role in fueling the epidemic. And, I successfully fought to make sure that Missouri’s network of local prescription drug monitoring programs were eligible for federal funding that historically was restricted to states, even as legislators in Jefferson City continue to make our state the only one in the country without a statewide program.

These issues touch folks young and old, in our cities and rural areas — all across the state. I’ve heard from far too many Missourians who are struggling to afford their prescriptions or who have been touched by the opioid epidemic. Their feedback has fueled my fights in Washington on their behalf. And I won’t give up.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is the senior senator from Missouri.