TAMWORTH — More needs to be done about price gouging of prescription drugs and making sure everyone has access to health care, citizens told U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas in Tamworth on Tuesday.
About 40 citizens attended the prescription drug town hall Pappas (D-Manchester) held at the Tri-County Community Action Program building. Most said more needs to be done to just basically to fix health care in America.
Pappas, 38, who represents New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District in Washington, was holding his sixth town hall meeting since January, this one co-sponsored by the Tamworth Community Nurse Association.
The meeting attracted local state Reps. Susan Ticehurst (D-Tamworth), Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom) and Tom Buco (D-Conway), along with Executive Councilor Mike Cryans (D-Hanover).
“We have to address the issue of cost. One of the major drivers of cost is prescription drugs,” Pappas said, noting the cost of prescription drugs has gone up 58 percent since 2012.
“I don’t know about you but I don’t think that incomes in our state, particularly for seniors and those that rely on prescriptions, have increased to that extent.”
As an example, the cost of insulin has tripled over the past decade. Pappas said that is not sustainable for people.
“You’re seeing a quarter of individuals who rely on insulin prescriptions rationing them. That leads to serious health implications, and has even led to death in some circumstances. It’s just really incomprehensible in America today that we can allow that situation to continue to happen,” he said.
Pappas is hopeful.
“Washington does have an interest in working on this in a bipartisan way,” he said. “There are folks across the political spectrum from the House to the Senate, and even in the White House, that are interested in working on this. We saw just a couple of weeks ago the White House look for ways to insure that we can safely import drugs from Canada. I think that is an important step forward.”
Pappas supports allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of drugs, which it is currently isn’t allowed to do.
“It was a giveaway to the drug industry,” he said.
Pappas said the legislation has also been passed in the House to stop drug companies from keeping generic drugs off the market, as well as legislation to prevent direct to consumer advertising on television. And he said he wants to see price transparency.
“I think there should be certain circumstances where that is appropriate but the ads you see on TV, frankly, are just a waste,” he said. “I think we need to rein those in the same way we reined in advertising around alcohol and cigarettes in certain circumstances.”
Ann McGarity of Tamworth said she would like to see legislation to force companies “that advertise on television — people dancing around and all that, to sell their drugs is an indication of the drugs being very expensive — I’d like to see the price on there.”
McGarity takes diabetes medicine, and found for one drug she was prescribed the cost, even with insurance, was $400.
“I said I’m not paying that, so I went back to the doctor, and they said, oh, we have something that will probably work just as well; this was $2,” she said, adding physicians should tell patients about low-cost prescriptions that are comparable.
“I agree with you 110 percent,” Pappas said. “The slick adds you see on TV with people dancing around and in the bath tub, people should really know what the drugs cost.
Karen Santuccio, who works for ServiceLink in Tamworth, said she had a client who had to get the shingles vaccine, and was told there was a $400 deductible plus a copay for a Part D medication is a Tier 4 (there’s no generic alternative).
One woman broke down in tears as she explained her fight for health care.
“I fall in the in-between lines,” she said, explaining her income hinders her abilities for care. “My shot for psoriasis costs $2,000 per shot every two weeks.”
Jo Anne, Rainville, executive director for the Tamworth Community Nurse Association, was familiar with the woman’s case explaining she reached the ceiling of her insurance coverage.
“She couldn’t have the Humira until her insurance was reinstated three months later,” Rainville said. “She had a horrible outbreak and she was in such pain that she made her entire family leave the house before she would take a shower because just the weight of the water on her skin would cause her to cry. This has a real, real impact. She’s working more than just one job. We should be able to do better than this.”
“I thank you for coming out and being really brave for sharing what you have been going through,” Pappas said. “I’m sorry about how you have been treated by the system. It’s unconscionable that this could happen in our country. Drugs like Humira are life-changing drugs and unfortunately, they’re out of reach to too many individuals who need them. We want to try to do everything we can to address this.”
“I’m not the only one,” the woman replied. “It’s insane, it’s not right. We should be taking care of our people.”