LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Jamie Tadrzynski, a Canyon Springs High School teacher and a Type 1 diabetic, said her medications cost $24,727 a year.
She said she is completely dependent on insulin injections, and she was just one of the people who spoke in support of Assembly Bill 250 (AB250) on Monday in Carson City. The bill is about some of the medications you see advertised every day on television, and it’s about getting a fair price for all Nevadans.
Assemblywoman Venicia Considine (D-Las Vegas) said, “AB250 is designed to reduce the cost of certain high-cost, non-competitive life-changing drugs by extending the benefits of federally negotiated Medicare drug prices under the Inflation Reduction Act to Nevadans who are not on Medicare.”
The federal government is negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to establish a “fair market price” starting with 10 medications this year and continuing in the coming year to add more drugs to the list. The 10 initial drugs are expected to be brand names that treat conditions including COPD, diabetes, blood cancer, breast cancer and strokes.
But the prices are specifically for Medicare recipients. That’s a lot of people — 65 million nationwide — but it would wouldn’t help anyone else.
“Drug companies are reporting record earnings but still hiking prices that Americans pay for drugs that we need to survive,” Considine said. Prices for 350 drugs are expected to go up in 2023.
Considine introduced AB250 to start the conversation now about getting all Nevadans the benefit of that fair market price. The bill would not take effect until 2026 and the Legislature would have the opportunity to make changes.
Some lawmakers questioned whether it was necessary to act at the state level now. Considine’s response: “We are here now.” She was alluding to the turnover in the Legislature each session, her own promises to supporters, and perhaps the current makeup of the Assembly and Senate, with Democratic majorities.
Her sense of urgency was shared by people who told their stories of hard decisions brought on by the cost of medications they need.
Tadrzynski, who described health care as a human right, said, “There’s no reason that we should have to decide between do we pay our rent, do we pay our car note, do we buy groceries, do we pay for our medication. For so many Nevadans, that’s our lived reality.”
She also talked about problems with insurance, saying the Teachers Health Trust “is sometimes like not having insurance.”
Others described effects that reached beyond the patient. Another teacher said she has students with parents that have to make choices between their own health and feeding their children — and sometimes kids show up for school hungry.
A Sun City Summerlin resident said drug companies are essentially robbing the Nevada economy — taking money earned here that never gets spent back into local businesses.
Materials presented by opponents of AB250 include a statement that “price controls will upend America’s position at the forefront of medical innovation, cease current and future research and development and eliminate American jobs the industry supports.”
The Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association said, on average, a new medicine that goes to market costs $2.6 billion and takes 10 years to go through research and development.
Others attacked the timing, saying the Inflation Reduction Act hasn’t even been implemented yet.
Washoe County Democratic Assemblywoman Natha Anderson countered, “It’s time for us to play offense and stop playing defense. And that’s too often what we do.”
The current structure of the bill would start with the 10 drugs that would be designated in September, making those prices standard for all Nevadans in 2026. In 2027, 15 more prices would be set; 15 more would be set in 2028; finally, in 2029, 20 additional medications would get “fair market price” designations.