Person pulling medicine from a shelf

Here’s how politicians are trying to stop that from happening.

Prescription medication just got more expensive after drug manufacturers like Pfizer Inc. and GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK), among others, hiked up drug prices for the New Year, according to the healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.

The cost of 250 medications in the United States increased, affecting everything from blood thinners to insulin to cancer treatments. According to Reuters, which first reported on the pricing research, there could be more price hike announcements in the coming weeks. 

Drug prices in the U.S are generally higher than other developed countries according to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. A 2016 study showed the price of medication in the United States is generally more than double the cost in a comparable country like the U.K.

The cost of prescription drugs is consistently a top concern for voters when they are asked about health care. A poll conducted in March 2019 by Hart Research and North Star Opinion Research found 9 out of 10 voters said it’s important that politicians address high prescription medication costs. The bipartisan poll also highlighted consensus between voters in different parties, with both Democrats and Republicans saying they wanted significant policy changes.

The price hike from drug manufacturers comes less than a month after the House passed H.R 3, legislation that aims to lower the cost of prescription drugs. It does that in part by allowing Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people age 65 and up, to negotiate for lower drug prices with manufacturers. 

Moderate Democrats have been avid supporters of the legislation, citing drug prices as one of the most important issues for their constituents back home. 

“People literally clutch my arm at the grocery store to tell me how their son is rationing his insulin or their daughter couldn’t go to summer camp because they couldn’t afford the inhalers,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) in a speech on the House floor in December.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s Medicare Vision Act which adds vision coverage for Medicare beneficiaries was also passed as part of H.R 3.

The progress for H.R 3 in the House might be as far as the drug pricing bill gets, however. In an interview with POLITICO in September, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the Senate would not call up a bill with “socialist price controls.” 

President Trump has also pushed for a bipartisan solution. Back in November he sent a series of tweets highlighting his plan to allow drug imports from other countries at a cheaper price, but its unclear if the plan will survive legal challenges from the pharmaceutical industry.

For the moment, H.R 3 is an option is arguably the legislation closest to reducing the cost of prescription drugs.

“This important legislation will drive down the cost of the country’s most expensive drugs by allowing our government to negotiate for the very best prices,” Slotkin said.