Congress was out of session this week because of the Presidents' Day holiday. Nearly all of those up for re-election (all of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate) were back in their home states and districts, most likely meeting with constituents and/or raising money for their campaigns. So although there was not a lot of news coming out of Congress, news was being made by the Trump administration.
Prescription Drug Costs
Efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs have been taking place at the state level as well as at the national level. This week the New Mexico legislature sent a bill to their Governor that aims to make the state among the first to work with the federal government on wholesale drug importation from Canada. States including Vermont, Maine, Colorado, and Florida have passed similar bills. Backers said importing lower-cost drugs from Canada would help people who can’t afford their prescriptions amid rising costs in the U.S.
Because of the strong push on the part of the President and members of Congress to find a way to lower drug prices, and getting drugs from other countries where the cost is lower has become popular as a solution, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a proposal to let states submit drug importation plans for federal approval.
However, there are several steps an importer would have to take to be certified to import the drugs and they are costly. If the current FDA rules are kept in place it could be that states would not see significant savings in the costs of drugs, or even enough savings to justify the cost of setting up such a program.
TSCL continues to support re-importation of drugs more than general importation of drugs made in other countries. And, while we also support imported medicines made in other countries, we strongly insist that the drugs be certified to be sure they are pure and contain only the ingredients they are supposed to have.
Lower prescription drug prices is one of our top priorities and we will continue to fight for them as long as it takes, and for whatever actions it takes to reduce them.
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Coronavirus and the U.S. Drug Supply
As the coronavirus continues to be among the major news stories each day, attention has turned to the drug supply in the U.S., not because of the cost but because of the vulnerability of the supply of prescription drugs for use in the nation.
The U.S. depends on China for thousands of chemicals needed to make prescription drugs. That's because it turns out that pharmaceutical companies have outsourced our generic medicine manufacturing to China.
In fact, generic medicines represent around 90 percent of all prescriptions dispensed in the U.S., and we depend on China for 80 percent of the core components to make our generic medicines.
With China taking drastic measures to try and contain the spread of the disease, including quarantines and shutting down some industries, production to supply America’s pharmacies and medicine cabinets is at risk of interruption.
For instance, sedatives such a fentanyl and propofol, which are administered to people placed on ventilators to help them breathe, are made with core ingredients from China. Medicines to treat shock, such as epinephrine and dopamine, are also made with chemical components from China. Antibiotics to treat sepsis, a life-threatening bloodstream infection, are made with raw materials supplied by China.
In addition, other medical supplies, including masks, gloves, and gowns are also made, in large measure, in China.
So it turns out that we have an important choice to make as a country. We can continue down the current path, increase our dependence on China, and accept the risk to our survival. Or we can invest in domestic manufacturing of a minimum level of production of essential medicines to prevent a situation where our supply is severed.
This is a new issue that has popped up on our radar and TSCL will be studying it in greater depth as we learn what might be done to insure lower prices and greater security for the prescription drugs that are so important for so many of us, especially the nations senior citizen population.
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Defense Department Shutting Military Families and Retirees out of Treatment Facilities
As a proud affiliate of TREA: The Enlisted Association, and because many of TSCL supporters are military retirees we keep a close eye on the health benefits of military retirees.
On Wednesday the Pentagon sent a “rightsizing plan” to Congress which, if fully agreed to by Congress, would result in approximately 200,000 military family members and retirees losing their ability to get health care at military hospitals and clinics.
The plan contained a list of 50 military treatment facilities that would see changes in some way over the next several years in the services they offer. Of those, 37 would stop seeing military family members and retirees altogether. At least 12 states would have more than one treatment facility changed with regard to its mission.
This is a major blow to military retirees whose reasons for settling around a military base included getting the health care they were promised when they agreed to serve a career in the Armed Forces.
If you've ever had a doctor or other health care provider who you've gone to for many years and who you really liked, but then who either retired or moved away, you can understand how upsetting this prospect is for many military retirees and military families.
It remains to be seen if Congress will go along with this plan.
For progress updates or for more information about these and other bills that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare programs, visit the Bill Tracking section of our website or follow TSCL on Twitter.