Dear politicians: Lower drug prices now

As polarized as we are over many issues, we are not polarized about drug prices.

Published August 20, 2019 8:30PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Chris Post)
(AP Photo/Chris Post)

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Across 34 states today, the American people had one unified message for their elected representatives in Washington, D.C.: lower drug prices now.

We are proud that Social Security Works is a founding member of a new broad-based coalition that is dedicated to breaking the stranglehold pharmaceutical corporations have on U.S. policymakers. Our campaign has a simple name, Lower Drug Prices Now, and a simple purpose, to do just what our name says. Our strategy is also simple: to mobilize millions of Americans across this country to stand up and demand that politicians choose a side, the American people or the pharmaceutical corporations.

Our coalition is still growing, but already is made up of organizations representing tens of millions of people united around four principles that guide our efforts to smash pharmaceutical corporations’ monopoly power:

  • Government responsibility: It is our government’s responsibility to guarantee that everyone in the United States, no matter where they live, what they look like, or how much money they have, has access to affordable medicines they and their families need to stay healthy.
  • Affordable access: Drug corporations and their lobbyists have rigged the rules in order to drive up profits, putting medicines out of reach for millions of people. We must topple the barriers that systematically deny people access to the medicines they need.Solutions to the affordable medicine crisis must ensure no one gets left behind.
  • Making the system fair: We must harness the government’s power to curb drug corporations’ power to extract profits at the expense of people’s health.
  • Putting public good ahead of corporate profit: We as taxpayers foot the bill for a substantial amount of drug research, development and innovation, as well as for drug purchasing through Medicare, Medicaid, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. We also, through our government, provide patent protections for drug corporations. We must ensure government funding, benefits, and incentives prioritize medical breakthroughs that most serve the public good rather than those that primarily extend monopolies and increase corporate profits.

Our coalition has come together to fill the gap between what the people want and demand of their elected representatives and what politicians are serving up in terms of addressing (or not addressing) high drug prices. The time for tinkering around the edges is over. Alongside the 51 events in states around the country today, Lower Drug Prices Now released new polling from Data for Progressthat demonstrates just how popular our ideas are. The polling reveals that Republicans, Independents and Democrats all agree about the need for structural changes that eliminate corporate monopoly power.


  • An overwhelming majority, 84.2 percent, support allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Only 4.7 percent oppose allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies.
  • Those numbers cut across the ideological divide. Ninety-one percent of Democrats, 81 percent of Independents, and 77 percent of Republicans support allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Opposition was nearly nonexistent, with only 3 percent of Democrats, 5 percent of Independents, and 7 percent of Republicans opposing the policy.
  • 68.5 percent support allowing the production of generic versions of life-saving drugs if the government determines that a drug company has raised prices beyond patients’ ability to pay.
  • 61.2 percent support allowing the production of generic versions of life-saving drugs if the government determines the price of the drug is higher in the United States than it is in other countries.

As the last two bullets show, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices is literally the least we can do. The American people want much bolder, transformational change. And support for bold proposals holds even after being forced to listen to industry propaganda. The polling looked at levels of support for allowing competition from generic pharmaceuticals to help lower drug prices versus anchoring the price of drugs to those in other countries.

The power of the pharmaceutical industry is entrenched in our political system. The only way we’re going to end their greed is with organized people power. The polling is clear: As polarized as we are over many issues, we are not polarized about drug prices. Americans across the political spectrum want, and need, lower drug prices. Our coalition is going to mobilize millions of people across the country to demand our politicians represent our will and take on the greed of the pharmaceutical industry to lower drug prices now — lives truly depend on their action.

By Nancy J. Altman

Nancy J. Altman is a writing fellow for Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She has a 40-year background in the areas of Social Security and private pensions. She is president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security coalition. Her latest book is "The Truth About Social Security." She is also the author of "The Battle for Social Security" and co-author of "Social Security Works!"

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By Alex Lawson

Alex Lawson is the executive director of Social Security Works, a non-profit advocacy group that supports expanding benefits to address America’s growing retirement security crisis. Lawson has appeared on numerous TV and radio outlets and is a frequent guest host of The "Thom Hartmann Program," one of the top progressive radio shows in the country.

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