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EDITORIAL: State must help lower drug prices

EDITORIAL: State must help lower drug prices

Government can't allow people to choose between medicine and other necessities any longer

You have to eat. You have to pay your mortgage. You have to turn the heat on. 

Yet your income is hardly keeping pace with the price of those necessities.

Then you find out that one of the drugs you’re taking for your heart condition, a drug that’s helping keep you alive, is about to get a lot more expensive.

In the last several years, the cost of prescription drug treatment has grown more than five times the average New Yorker’s income, according to research from AARP.

For 4 million New Yorkers suffering from cancer, diabetes and heart disease, the price of their medication rose from 62% to 96% between 2012 and 2017.

So now you’re faced with keeping a roof over your head, food in your stomach and heat and lights on in your house.

What do you do?

For 20 percent of New Yorkers in this situation, the answer has been to forgo their medication, the AARP reports.

Think about it. People are literally risking their own lives because they can’t afford medicine.

That needs to change.

Drug companies can’t keep getting away with raising the cost of their drugs to the point where the people they’re supposed to be helping can’t afford them.

And government can no longer drag its feet in helping its citizens deal with the rising costs, particularly when there are alternatives available.

AARP is among an number of organizations supporting a common-sense reform package that could help ease the burden for many in this situation.

Among the reforms being sought is allowing more middle-income New Yorkers access to the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program, a state program that helps more than 327,000 income-eligible seniors supplement their Medicare drug plan expenses.

Other reforms would allow for the legal importation of lower-cost drugs, with federal certification to ensure safety; giving the state attorney general more power to go after drug-makers for price gouging; and requiring drug companies to disclose when they withhold lower-priced generic drugs from the market.

More than three dozen organizations are also urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign bill A2969/S2849, which would prohibit health care plans from making prescription drug formulary changes during a contract year.

These changes by themselves won’t alleviate the deep financial and health challenges posed by rising prescription drug costs. But they may help break the cycle and perhaps lead to stricter controls over rising prices in the long run.

And maybe, as a result, they’ll help save some lives. Maybe yours.

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