By Tiffany Haverly | February 25, 2020

A recent op-ed by Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal highlighted the challenges too many New Yorkers are facing affording their medicines. Working together to address these challenges is important – which is why biopharmaceutical manufacturers are coming to the table with solutions – but unfortunately Assemblymember Rosenthal’s piece failed to paint the full picture of what’s driving up patients’ out-of-pocket costs.

AARP recently released a poll on the affordability of medicines for seniors across the Empire State. We agree. Seniors deserve solutions to help them afford and access their medicines. Unfortunately, it’s clear AARP is continuing their campaign against biopharmaceutical innovators while ignoring other entities that determine seniors’ out-of-pocket costs – entities like health insurance companies that, unsurprisingly, pad AARP’s bottom line.

New data released found that, in 2018, nearly half of every dollar spent on brand medicines went to entities other than the companies researching and manufacturing those medicines. That number is up from 33% five years prior. The amount retained by innovative biopharmaceutical companies has remained flat in recent years – in line with inflation. So, if patients are paying more, and the companies making the medicines are retaining roughly the same amount of spending on brand medicines, where is the money going? It’s going to middlemen like pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), health insurers, the government and others.

AARP conveniently ignores these facts. Why? It could be because since 2010, AARP has made more than $4.5 billion in royalties and investment income from their relationship with insurance companies. In 2017, AARP collected $301 million in membership dues. Do you know how much they pocketed that same year from United Healthcare Group (UHG)? $627 million – more than double what they collected from AARP members.

I can give you 4.5 billion reasons why AARP continues to campaign against the innovators that develop new treatments and cures for some of society’s most devastating diseases, but it doesn’t make it any less disappointing to see them put profits over seniors time and time again.

Patients should be able to afford and access the medicines their doctors prescribe. We are committed to making sure that happens by supporting policies that ensure patients benefit from the rebates and discounts insurers and other middlemen receive from biopharmaceutical manufacturers. Additionally, we believe insurers have a responsibility to cover medicines from day one and offer plans with lower, more predictable cost-sharing options for patients, to name a few industry-supported solutions that could help New Yorkers afford and access their medicines.

Unfortunately, many of the proposals being considered in the state Legislature would do nothing to lower New Yorkers’ medicine costs or address misaligned incentives in the pharmaceutical supply chain. If legislators across the Empire State are serious about lowering patients’ medicine costs, they should look at the full process that determines what patients pay at the pharmacy counter. They might be surprised by what they find.

Tiffany M. Haverly is Director of Public Affairs for PhRMA