Prescription costs topic of panel discussion

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, D-3rd Dist., left, today asked some questions about high prescription drug prices at a panel discussion held at Kansas City Kansas Community College. On the right was
Jenifer Clausen, pharmacy director at St. Luke’s South Hospital. (Staff photo)
A panel today discussed the topic of high prescription drug costs. U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, center, convened the panel discussion, which was held at Kansas City Kansas Community College. (Staff photo)

Does anyone have $13,000 to spend every month on prescription drugs?

That was a question asked at a forum today in Kansas City, Kansas, by a panelist who has leukemia. He told a group convened by Rep. Sharice Davids to discuss high prescription costs that some people’s prescription drugs can cost more than $100,000 a year. An increase in medication costs in the past several years for diabetes also was discussed today.

National organizations have told one panelist they’d like to help patients with prescription drug costs, but helping them would bankrupt their organizations.

The panel today discussed the increasing costs of some prescription drugs and their relationship to health care costs.

The panel, meeting at the Jewell Building at Kansas City Kansas Community College, included a CEO of health care clinics in Wyandotte County, a pharmacy director from a hospital, a cancer survivor, a mother of a diabetic patient, and others. The host of the panel discussion was Rep. Davids, D-3rd Dist.

Patrick Sallee, CEO of the three Vibrant Health Clinics in Wyandotte County, where a significant percentage of patients do not have insurance, said Medicaid expansion in Kansas is a solution. More patients would be likely to go to the doctor and more specialists would be likely to see them, if there was Medicaid expansion, he said.

Currently, his clinics are seeing some patients who either don’t go to the doctor because they can’t afford the visit or the medication, or who skip some of their doses or cut their doses in half because they can’t afford it. A small amount of medication is donated to the clinics, but not enough for all the patients.

Jenifer Clausen, pharmacy director at St. Luke’s South Hospital, listed some reasons why prescription drug prices were high, including research and development costs, marketing costs, negotiated benefits, and drug shortages.

The mother of a teenage daughter with Type 1 diabetes told the audience that the cost of insulin has doubled in the last few years, and was up to $1,500 to $2,000 a month for some patients. Some patients were rationing their insulin because of the cost and ended in the hospital as a result, increasing health care costs, she said. About 70 percent of the cost of insulin was from rebates given to pharmacies, according to the parent of the diabetic patient.

Other topics, such as the ability of telemedicine to reduce health care costs, whether the secretary of Health and Human Services should have the authority to negotiate Medicare Part D prescription costs, and the role of pharmacy benefit managers, also were discussed.

Rep. Davids said health care costs have been brought up by residents at all of the meet-and-greet events she has held in the 3rd District.

While today’s panel discussion did not attempt to find an immediate solution for addressing prescription and health care costs, Rep. Davids said it helps her to know the issues faced by residents and to gather information that can be helpful in future legislation. She said her goal is to listen to the constituents and learn about the issues.

She encouraged residents to contact her office to discuss any issues they may have with the federal government, including Medicaid issues, health care issues, and other topics of federal legislation.

Rep. Davids earlier announced her support of a bill that would reduce health care costs and protect people with pre-existing conditions.

Residents who want to make their views known about federal issues may contact Rep. Davids’ staff at her offices including one at 753 State Ave., they may phone the office at 913-766-3993 or they may email her through the website at https://davids.house.gov/zip-code-lookup?form=/contact/email-me.

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