May 11, 2017 Blogs

Letter to Maine State Legislature

May 11, 2017

Members of the Legislature
State House
Augusta, ME 04333

Dear Honorable Members of the House and Senate,

My name is Ben Wakana. I was raised in Caribou, ME, and I currently serve as the Executive Director of Patients For Affordable Drugs. We are the only independent national patient organization focused exclusively on policies to lower prescription drug prices. To maintain our independence, we do not accept funding from any organizations that profit from the development or distribution of prescription drugs. We are about patients first, last, and always.

In the two months since our launch, we have heard from thousands of patients in every corner of our nation who are struggling under high prescription drug prices.


We heard from Chris Kasserman of Lisbon, ME. He wrote, “I have a chronic disease which requires $10,000 a month for drugs to treat the disease. If the price went down, it would leave money to get other treatments to help me manage my disease.”


For five-and-a-half years, David Mitchell – the co-founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs – took the drug Revlimid to keep his cancer at bay.

Over that time, the manufacturer of Revlimid, Celgene, refused to give samples to generic drug makers. Celgene did its best to delay generic versions of the drug by hiding behind its restricted distribution system and Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS).

Here’s what that meant for David and patients like him in Maine: David’s out-of-pocket cost for Revlimid went from $42 a month in 2011 to $250 a month by the time he had to stop taking it last year because of side effects. As you can see from the attached bill, the retail price for 21 one four-week cycle of Revlimid capsules is $10,691—more than $500 per capsule.

To me, it’s clear that Celgene is gaming our system. It is using the bogus pretext of REMS to unlawfully deny samples to generic manufacturers in order to prevent them from developing a cheaper alternative. It is ripping off patients and taxpayers while blocking market competition.

Let me make the comparison more stark. The median income of a Medicare beneficiary is about $26,200 per year1. The median out-of-pocket cost for Revlimid is $11,500 per year2. But the CEO of Celgene—Robert Hugin—was paid almost $100 million dollars over three years. That is like a direct income transfer from the patient on Medicare to Mr. Hugin. It is just plain wrong. But they promoted him to Executive Chairman. A job well done.


Patients For Affordable Drugs supports L.D. 1280 because it fixes an egregious abuse of the U.S. prescription drug system. By requiring brand manufacturers to provide samples to generic manufacturers at a fair market price, this bill will speed generics to market, increase competition, and help patients access more affordable drugs. We hope you pass this legislation and help Mainers struggling under crushing drug prices.

Thank you for your attention. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at


Ben Wakana
Executive Director
Patients For Affordable Drugs


1Jacobson, Gretchen, Shannon Griffin, Tricia Neuman, and Karen Smith. “Income and Assets of Medicare Beneficiaries, 2016-2035.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. N.p., 21 Apr. 2017. Web. 11 May 2017.
2Hoadley, Jack, Juliette Cubanski, and Tricia Neuman. “It Pays to Shop: Variation in Out-of-Pocket Costs for Medicare Part D Enrollees in 2016 – Findings.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. N.p., 02 Dec. 2015. Web. 11 May 2017.


Patients For Affordable Drugs is the only independent national patient organization focused exclusively on achieving policy changes to lower the price of prescription drugs.