My name is Catherine Iliff — “Beatel” to friends and family — and I am a 67-year-old resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota. I worked as a long-term nurse for over 43 years, and I witnessed both the inspirational and devastating sides of health care. Something that struck me was the high cost of necessary procedures and medications. These are issues that would soon be pervasive in my own life.
I retired two years ago and dove into being of service to others and spending as much time as I could with my grandchildren. I provide support by visiting a veteran’s center with my dog on the weekends, and I also volunteer as a guardian for children in protective custody. It is important to me that I use my experiences to help others, and that is why I am sharing my experience with high drug prices with you today.
I have primary biliary cholangitis and ankylosing spondylitis, conditions that have affected my life both physically and financially. Paying for my treatments has sometimes been hard, as I am on a fixed income. I have been prescribed medicines such as Lyrica and Tricor, and I had to spend $300 to purchase Lyrica at one point. When I was first prescribed Tricor, my copay was $10. But when I changed to Medicare at 65, my price for 40mg of Tricor went to $1,800/month. The pharmacist whispered to me that if the doctor changed the order to 160mg tabs and I broke it in half for the 80mg dose, it would only cost me $40. The doctor was unaware also of the price difference and was glad to change the order.
It turns out that the drug company still had the patent on the 40mg tab. The patent for the 160mg tab had expired, even though it was the same drug –– just in a different dose with an outrageously different price. I was shocked to find out the difference in cost between the amounts of medication.
I need that medication, and I certainly can’t afford $1,800 per month. I don’t know anyone who could. These prices are unsustainable and are damaging the lives and livelihoods of countless Americans. It is irresponsible and cruel that pharmaceutical companies are participating in shady schemes to maintain their patents and to ensure that I pay more, not less, for a life-saving drug.
I implore others to share their stories and call on legislators to lower drug prices.