HARRISONBURG — Amanda Dameron of Harrisonburg has seen close friends and family suffer from the high price of prescription drugs.
Dameron and about a dozen other local residents protested outside the Harrisonburg office of U.S. Rep. Ben Cline, R-Lexington, to call for action to decrease pharmaceutical prices on Thursday.
“She’s really close to my heart,” Dameron said of a recently deceased aunt who suffered from Type 1 diabetes.
The price of insulin, a lifesaving drug for people with diabetes, has tripled since 2002 and increased by nearly two-thirds since the beginning of 2014, according to a report from the American Diabetes Association.
In total, Americans pay the highest costs for medication per capita in the world, according to a September report in the Financial Times.
High prescription prices “affects everybody in one way or another,” Dameron said.
Dameron is a member of Virginia Organizing, the group that coordinated the protest.
Virginia Organizing does not endorse political candidates, she said.
“We focus on issues and people rather than candidates,” Dameron said. “So we have not and will not endorse anyone specifically.”
House Resolution 3 in Congress was one of the bills residents were calling on Cline to support to lower prescription prices.
President Donald Trump has broached executive action to lower drug prices, according to various media reports, including in The Washington Post.
“A lot of the efforts so far have been piecemeal, so we’re really looking for comprehensive reform and we think HR 3 is a step in the right direction,” Dameron said.
Formally called the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019, the bill seeks to decrease how much Americans pay for medication.
The bill would allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies and pass those prices down to all Americas, limiting the maximum price charged for drugs based on the average price paid in other countries and escalating penalties to drug companies that do not comply, among other measures, according to the website of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., introduced the bill to the House on Sept. 19. It was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the committees on Ways and Means, and Education and Labor, according to the U.S. Congress website.
Cline is a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor and the House Judiciary Committee, but he does not support HR 3 due to concerns about jobs and economic output loss in Virginia.
“I agree that Congress should take action immediately to encourage lower prescription drug prices and better enable Americans to afford the medications they need,” Cline said in an email Thursday.
Cline is the lead co-sponsor of the Terminating the Extension of Rights Misappropriated Act, otherwise known as TERM Act and HR 3199.
“This commonsense, bipartisan legislation would allow for the quicker introduction of generic medications to the marketplace by ending the practice of ‘evergreening’ by the pharmaceutical companies,” Cline said.
The bill was introduced on June 11 and was sent to the House Committee on the Judiciary. As of June 28, it has been referred to the subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, according to the U.S. Congress website.