(CHICAGO, JULY 24, 2018) – Leaders of Presence Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center have joined U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in urging the Trump administration and Congress to take action to curb the soaring cost of prescription drugs.
“We recognize and appreciate that pharmaceutical companies develop and manufacture life-saving treatments and breakthrough cures,” said Laura Concannon, M.D., vice president, medical affairs, and chief medical officer at the medical center. “Our doctors cannot provide the kind of high-quality care that our patients deserve without the partnership of this industry. But new and innovate pharmaceuticals are meaningless if these products are not accessible to our patients.”
Concannon said the Trump administration and Congress “should pursue reforms that address the underlying causes of high drug prices while striking a balance between innovation and affordability.” Concannon delivered her remarks during a news conference Monday in front of the medical center’s Center for Cancer and Specialty Care. Durbin and Martin Judd, the medical center’s president and chief executive officer, also spoke at the event.
Durbin called for congressional action on several pieces of legislation that would hold the pharmaceutical industry accountable, curb price hikes, and bring much-needed transparency to price setting for prescription drugs in the U.S.
“Health care is too expensive for too many working families, and the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs is only exacerbating the problem, causing higher out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy and ever-rising monthly premiums,” Durbin said. “Not to mention what these escalating price tags mean for our federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, which are supported with taxpayer dollars.”
Durbin called on President Trump to support initiatives to reduce drug costs for families, including requiring companies to list the price of drugs in television ads and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. “Americans are being squeezed at the pharmacy counter. It’s about time we take action on real solutions,” said Durbin, who has introduced various pieces of legislation to help reduce prescription drug costs.
Speaking after Durbin, Concannon said: “As a physician, I want to echo Senator Durbin’s call and encourage Congress to find solutions that put patients first, keep drug prices low for all, and provide support to hospitals like ours that primarily serve patients who are among the most vulnerable.”
Founded by Catholic nuns to address the health needs of the poor and vulnerable, the medical center has served Chicago’s west side for more than 125 years. Now part of AMITA Health, the medical center has become one of the largest safety-net hospitals in the state, providing nearly $10 million in charity care to more than 10,000 people last year.
Because the medical center focuses largely on caring for low-income patients, “we are very sensitive to fluctuations in drug pricing,” said Judd, who introduced Durbin at the news conference. “We are grateful that he is focusing attention on drug pricing.”
The medical center relies on discount drug programs, such as the 340B Drug Pricing Program, to serve patients’ needs, Judd said. Under the 340B program, pharmaceutical companies agree to provide outpatient drugs at significantly reduced prices to eligible health-care organizations that serve low-income patients.
Presence and AMITA Health want Congress to protect the 340B program, contending that restricting it would cause significant cutbacks in critical community health services. “It doesn’t require any taxpayer dollars,” Judd said. “We use drug discount programs like 340B to provide critically important and expensive medications to patients with multiple sclerosis, asthma, diabetes and other conditions – even if the patients cannot afford the treatment themselves. In fact, drug discount programs are essential for us to operate this cancer center and provide chemotherapy treatments.”
About AMITA Health
AMITA Health (www.AMITAhealth.org) is a joint operating company formed by the Adventist Health System in Altamonte Springs, Fla., and St. Louis-based Ascension. With the addition of Presence Health, AMITA Health is now the largest health system in Illinois, comprising 19 hospitals and more than 230 sites of care. The newly combined health system has 900 providers in its medical groups, more than 26,000 associates and 7,000 physician partners, and now serves over 4.3 million residents in the greater Chicagoland area.