Lansing provides sluggish response to Michigan’s rising drug prices

March 1, 2018

Originally published by Bridge Magazine.

Lansing resident Garrett Clinard could be the poster child for the kind of spiraling prescription drug costs that have moved states from Maryland to Utah to try to curtail their price.

Clinard, 61, suffers from a rheumatic disease that attacks his joints, leading to episodes of shooting pain and chronic discomfort. He saw medication he took for it spike from $8.30 to more than $150 a month. He said he quit taking it in 2012.

“I couldn’t afford it anymore,” he said.

Now Clinard said he’s got chronic pain in his elbows, knees, shoulders and lower back that he rates it a constant “four” on a one-to-10 scale and has put him on disability after work that involved setting up retail displays, lugging around displays that weighed 72 pounds.

“If I would have been able to take my medication, I would still be able to go skiing,” he said. “I’d still be working. I’d still be walking my dog.”

With nearly 60 percent of Americans taking prescription drugs – and costs rising 10 percent a year (far more in cases like Clinard’s) – advocates say states can’t afford to wait for federal initiatives.

But whether Michigan will also take action remains to be seen. By one measure our per capita prescription retail drug costs rank 17th highest in the nation. Another ranking by searchRX, a website that offers comparative prescription drug prices, found Michigan as high as fifth in prescription drug costs.

And on top of that, the United States spends more per capita on prescription medications than any other country in the world.

Several states, blue and red, are passing laws intended to lower drug costs for their residents – from penalizing pharmaceutical firms that dramatically raise prices, to buying medications in bulk from Canada. In Michigan, bills are expected to be introduced this week in the Senate, though they come from Democrats in a chamber dominated by Republicans, leaving their fate unclear.

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