Each day, Central Texans are forced to make difficult decisions about their health. The high price of drugs has created an unfortunate reality for the most vulnerable among us: a choice between basic necessities and taking daily prescription medications. Many need those drugs to survive. It’s particularly galling to see prices for drugs that have been around for decades suddenly and steeply increased with no apparent justification, on both branded and generic drugs.
Texas health care leaders and legislators from both political parties agree that shifting from fee-for-service to value-based care is critical to delivering quality care. Unfortunately, at a time when health care providers are working to make the system more efficient and effective, prescription medication prices are rising faster than the rate of inflation.
Here in Central Texas, where Central Health, Integral Care and Ascension’s Seton Healthcare Family share a mission to serve low-income working people, astronomical drug price increases undermine our ability to provide affordable prescription medications to these vulnerable populations, impacting patient care. They also deplete resources needed to invest in a system of care that lowers the cost curve.
In my own practice as an anesthesiologist, I have seen drug prices soar over the last couple of years. For example, the drug vasopressin is used in critically ill patients in order to maintain blood pressure. In January 2015 it cost $3.31 per vial and today that cost has increased over 40-fold to $123.00 per vial. These types of increases are common and make the financial burden of taking care of the critically ill even more taxing.
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