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In taking on high drug prices, Trump faces a complex nemesis

In this July 2016 photo, a prescription is filled at a pharmacy in Sacramento, Calif.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Prescription drug prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Families across Wisconsin are struggling to pay for the medications they need just to stay alive and healthy. Every day, people in our state get prescriptions from their doctors that they can’t afford to fill. Every day, Wisconsinites make excruciating decisions that no one should have to make: rationing their medicine, deciding whether to pay rent or buy food or to fill their prescriptions.

This is unacceptable — nobody should be denied health care or prescription drugs in 2018 in the richest country in the world.

This is also unnecessary. Rising drug costs and price hikes have been a longstanding problem, but they have now reached a crisis point and we must take action to solve it.

In a recent investigation, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Health News found that “the costs of seven widely prescribed antibiotics, cancer drugs, arthritis medications and other prescriptions have escalated between 29 percent and 5,241 percent in recent years.” EpiPen prices have quadrupled since 2010, the price of insulin has doubled, and Wisconsinites are footing the bill.

Big pharmaceutical corporations are price-gouging vulnerable Americans facing serious health problems to maximize their profits. The corporation that manufactures EpiPens — used to counteract severe allergic reactions — raised it prices fourfold only when their competitor went out of business. Their product wasn’t four times better. It didn’t cost four times as much to make. The company simply saw an opportunity to dramatically increase their profits. People — including children — with deadly allergies need EpiPens with them at all times. Their lives shouldn’t be on the line because a drug company suddenly fell into a monopoly.

The problem of pharmaceutical corporations mistreating patients goes far beyond just the maker of EpiPen. Other drug companies use the monopolies their patents grant them to charge patients as much as possible — and then they pay competitors to delay manufacturing cheaper, generic drugs. Some pharma companies use taxpayer funds to develop drugs, and then patent those drugs and charge consumers exorbitant prices.

This is wrong. This is not the free market determining prices — it’s companies using monopolistic practices and buying politicians to maximize their profits at any cost.

I have a plan to address pharmaceutical price gouging and protect health care patients.

First, we should require pharmaceutical corporations submit a written justification for any substantial price increases before they go into effect. If there is not a legitimate reason for the increase, Wisconsin should empower our attorney general to hold these corporations accountable. Sen. Dave Hansen and Rep. Jimmy Anderson have proposed a similar bill, and as governor I would work with our Legislature to ensure its swift passage.

We must also urge our federal lawmakers to take action. Sen. Tammy Baldwin has been a national leader in addressing the price of prescription drugs, and we need to support her efforts and urge other lawmakers to join her. The Department of Health and Human Services should be allowed negotiate the price of prescription drugs for Medicare recipients. Right now, they are legally banned from doing so, preventing our government from leveraging the purchasing power of millions of Americans to bring down drug prices. We should allow the safe importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where they are often significantly cheaper, and shorten the length of monopolistic patents granted to pharmaceutical corporations.

It’s time our government curbs the excesses and greed of the pharmaceutical industry, which have gone unchecked for far too long. Nobody should be forced to ration life-saving prescription drugs, or choose between food and medicine. As governor, I promise to take on powerful special interests and work to benefit the people of Wisconsin every single day.

Kelda Roys is a Democratic candidate for governor of Wisconsin. 

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