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West Virginia group launches digital ads to promote affordable prescription drug prices

Protect Our Care is launching digital ads to promote a bill in Congress that will empower the government to negotiate prescription drug prices, including diabetes medication and supplies. (Photo by Steven Allen Adams)

CHARLESTON — A healthcare advocacy group launched digital ads this week seeking the attention of federal lawmakers for a bill that could reduce prescription drug prices.

Protect our Care West Virginia held a press conference Thursday announcing a digital ad buy that started Tuesday to promote passage of H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act.

The ads, which will run all summer, tell the story of Morgantown-native Mindy Salango, a type 1 diabetic who relies on insulin to manage her diabetes.

“When I was first starting out as a diabetic, insulin generally would cost about $25 a month,” Salango said. “Now, I pay about $350 a month for all of my supplies to keep my blood glucose under control. The thought of not being able to afford my medication is terrifying.”

Speaking during Thursday’s press conference, Salango elaborated on her struggles to pay for her diabetes medications and supplies. Salango said higher prescription drug prices cause people to choose between their medication and other priorities, such as rent, mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and food.

“To think about how the different implications and the damage that you’re doing to your body when you’re not taking your medication, particularly something like insulin that is vital to survive and vital to stay healthy, it is terrifying,” Salango said. “For the richest country in the world to be treating citizens like this is abysmal to me.”

That’s why Salango is calling on West Virginia’s lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Congress to support the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. H.R.3 would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate prices for certain kinds of drugs — a power that the agency does not have.

The bill would give HHS the authority to negotiate the maximum prices for certain brand-name drugs when generics are unavailable and account for the greatest amount of federal spending by both HHS and Medicare. The bill also gives HHS the authority to negotiate the cost of newly approved drugs and insulin products.

According to Support Our Care WV, H.R.3 could save taxpayers approximately $500 billion over the next 10 years while making prescription drugs more affordable for those with low income or fixed income – possibly decreasing drug prices by as much as 55 percent. According to the progressive Center for American Progress, H.R. 3 could save type 1 diabetics as much as $700 per year on insulin.

“The next big frontier in healthcare is lowering prescription drug prices for the American people,” said Brad Woodhouse, executive director of Protect Our Care. “It’s outrageous what Mindy talked about in this ad. It’s outrageous that we’re facing this…It really is a no-brainer that we should do this. If you give Medicare the power, it saves taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and it doesn’t cost anything.”

This is the second time H.R. 3 has been introduced, garnering 62 co-sponsors in the House, though no Republicans have signed onto the bill. The previous version of the bill had 106 co-sponsors but no Republican support. It passed the House 230 to 192 with only two Republicans supporting the bill. West Virginia’s three Republican House members — 1st District Congressman David McKinley, 2nd District Congressman Alex Mooney, and 3rd District Congresswoman Carol Miller — all voted against it.

The ad campaign is part of a 13-state strategy to put pressure on federal lawmakers. Protect Our Care is planning for other events throughout the summer.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com.

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