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Florida Democrats Urge Congress To Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Some diabetic patients pay around $1,000 a month for insulin, a drug vital to their survival.
Some diabetic patients pay around $1,000 a month for insulin, a drug vital to their survival.

The U.S. House is considering a bill to give Medicare the power to negotiate lower costs for prescription drugs like insulin, a life-saving diabetes medicine that can cost families thousands of dollars a year.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, and state Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, are calling on Congress to lower prescription drug costs.

They joined the advocacy group Protect Our Care Florida during a webinar on Friday and talked with people struggling to afford insulin because of the high prices companies ask for the diabetes drug.

Chris Clark of Tallahassee talked about the numerous episodes of debilitating illness he experienced in the early years of his diabetes diagnosis because he couldn't afford insulin.

He did the math: He said he has had to pay about $1,000 a month for his medicine for 16 years.

“That's $192,000 that had come out of my pocket to keep myself alive; if I don't take insulin, I will die,” said Clark.

House Democrats are revisiting the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, a bill to give Medicare the power to negotiate lower prescription drug costs. They passed it last year but it died in the U.S. Senate.

“I am continuing to fight in the Energy and Commerce Committee, along with my colleague Rep. Kathy Castor, to pass this bill out of the House,” vowed Soto.

Cruz also couldn’t get her bill to cap insulin costs at $100 a month passed in the Florida Legislature this session.

She shared stories from families who were forced to ration insulin doses and said emergency room doctors told her they regularly treat patients who end up in diabetic shock because they didn’t have access to medicine.

“We are going to continue to lose lives until we force drug manufacturers and health companies to figure something out,” said Cruz. “We know that health coverage is not a privilege; it’s a right.”

Meredith Rosser, whose son has diabetes, expressed her frustration at lawmakers' refusal thus far to help families access live-saving drugs.

“We're talking about insulin that keeps my child alive, and so to them it's a game and I feel like they're wanting us to beg and I'm getting real tired of begging for my child's life and his future,” she said though tears.

During his recent joint address to Congress, President Joe Biden told lawmakers to make passing legislation to lower drug costs a priority.

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.