January 20, 2020, SW News Media — 

In the Dec. 19 Prior Lake American, State Rep. Tony Albright was quoted as saying that government price controls on pharmaceutical drugs could lead to controlling doctors’ fees by a “bureaucratic force.” He suggests that innovation and market forces are the better way to let drug prices be determined.

As a physician who writes prescriptions every day for patients who then need to pay for those drugs, I strongly disagree, and I’d also like to ask Rep. Albright to provide some examples of innovative drugs that have resulted that are actually affordable to patients. The unregulated so-called free market for prescription drugs is a cause of bureaucracy, not a solution.

Doctors like me spend hours on the phone with insurance companies, pleading with them to approve medications they automatically deny because they are more expensive even when that drug might be critical for the patient. Every hour I spend on the phone talking to an insurance company representative (often much of that time on hold) is an hour that I could have used seeing one or more other patients.

And the research argument — if Big Pharma needs all this money for research, why aren’t they inventing some new, novel drugs for conditions like depression and anxiety, which we know are on the rise in America? As a psychiatrist, I know there is a critical need for new treatments for mental health conditions such as these.

You don’t need to be a doctor or scientist to appreciate that almost all the mental health drugs that have come on the market in the last 30 years have been copycat drugs. A single molecule of an existing drug might be slightly altered so that the company can get a new patent — but the drug does nothing new. That’s not innovation. That’s Big Pharma making money off our patent laws and FDA regulations.

That’s where the “bureaucratic force” lies. But if we’re talking about doctors doing our jobs and patients getting treatment, drugs need to be affordable for our patients.

Andrea Nelsen
Prior Lake