Rx Drug Prices Too High? Thank Sen. Maria Cantwell

Recently, at a Senate hearing on 2/26/19, Washington State’s own Maria Cantwell, my senator, decided to get tough on Big Pharma. As she should. Brand name oral prescription drug prices rose 9% per year since 2008—a bit more than six times the rate of inflation with no relation to medical efficacy. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry had a monopoly-like profit margin between about fourteen and twenty percent from 2006 to 2015, according to the Government Accountability Office. That’s not ok…

So here came Sen. Cantwell, invoking an utmost Senatorial tone—one bursting with self righteousness—to lecture Pharma CEOs about the need for market mechanisms to lower Rx drug prices:

In the video Sen. Cantwell specifically says, “I will tell you what is absurd is the fact that you got a 6.3 Billion dollar tax break in the last tax bill and you can’t even say that you’re for basic market functions like giving people discounts when they’re bundled and you get volume …. But I know people here are going to want basic market functions to drive down costs for consumers.”

Side effects of CantwellXR include: Extended incumbency, moderate to severe crony-capitalism, artificially-inflated drug prices, and in some cases extreme excess returns on capital for Big Pharma. If you experience any of these systems, tell your senator immediately…

Side effects of CantwellXR include: Extended incumbency, moderate to severe crony-capitalism, artificially-inflated drug prices, and in some cases extreme excess returns on capital for Big Pharma. If you experience any of these systems, tell your senator immediately…

I sure do! Now some think there should be no profit in healthcare—that isn’t the point here (though Pharma profit exists in Sweden, Germany, Europe, et al. industrialized economies). The point is that Sen. Cantwell lambasted Pharma for undermining market functions when she herself blocked the importation of cheap Rx drugs from Canada claiming “deep concerns” about their safety.

Specialization and trade is a key aspect of a consumer friendly market. When it comes to Rx drugs, Sen. Cantwell is opposed. She concurrently believes blocking consumer friendly market incentives is “absurd.” Is she calling herself absurd? By her logic, yes.

Senator Maria Cantwell thinks that our neighbor to the north, a developed nation with likely a better quality of life than America, one of our largest trading partners, a technologically advanced country—Canada—isn’t capable of producing safe drugs. Do you really think she would turn down Canuck pills if she happened to find herself in an emergency room north of Blaine, WA?

They got the good drugs up there… And you could afford them if not for Sen. Maria Cantwell.

They got the good drugs up there… And you could afford them if not for Sen. Maria Cantwell.

I doubt it and I’d bet my annual deductible Sen. Cantwell would take the safe, cost-effective Canadian pills. So why is she keeping us from these “true north strong and [cheaper]” medicines?

I honestly don’t know. I’d be surprised if anyone could get a straight answer out of Sen. Cantwell. She does take some Pharma money, but she isn’t anywhere close to the top 20 of Senators taking their lobbying medicine. She only took about $43K from Pharma between 2013 and 2018. I doubt she sold us all out for what amounts to .3% of her roughly $11.5M of fundraising over that period.

So I’ll send Sen. Cantwell a letter asking her to defend this position. Let’s see what her office will reply with to a constituent. If you’re a Washingtonian like me, you should ask her why too. It doesn’t matter if you want incremental changes to healthcare or a single-payer revolution; we deserve a Senator who will support a policy that would help right now.

Senator Cantwell’s office phone number is: (206) 220-6400

Go ahead Washingtonians, give her a call. Ask her why she doesn’t want you to have cheaper Rx drugs. (Be respectful).

I’m glad Sen. Cantwell defended her seat against Susan Hutchinson in 2018. The last thing the Senate needs right now is another Republican. But, we can do better than someone who keeps safe, cheaper medicine out of reach.