Affordability board holds first meeting to lower prescription drug prices for Oregonians

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 12:43 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - The Oregon Prescription Drug Affordability Board held its first meeting on Thursday. The board will be studying the market over the next few months to eventually try to lower drug prices for Oregonians.

With inflation driving up the prices of so many necessities, Oregonians have little money left to pay for arguably the biggest necessity of all, their prescription drugs.

The inaugural meeting for the board focused mainly on logistics like policies and the election of the chairperson and vice-chair person. But in the coming months, the board will be diving into studying the prescription drug market and find ways to better advocate for lower costs of prescription drugs.

The owner of a Beaverton Pharmacy, Wade Irby, said he has seen how the high price of prescriptions has impacted both his customers and his business. He said the affordability board has its work cut out for them.

Irby’s knowledge of the prescription drug market dates back 40 years to his father’s pharmacy in the 1980s, when the price of a vial of insulin was between $35 and $45. A stark contrast to what it costs today.

The price hike Irby talked about is caused by more than just inflation.

“A vial of insulin could be over $100. Retail pricing could be between $170 and $200 for a single vial,” he said.

The price may be why some people choose to ration their supply or wait until the last minute before refilling their prescription. He said insulin’s high cost is also partly why his pharmacy no longer carries the drug. When they did, they’d order the insulin only after a prescription was placed by a customer to avoid spending thousands of dollars only to have it sit on their shelves and impact their bottom line.

“Especially medications that people are using on an ongoing basis, very commonly, very frequently, that can be very expensive on the cash flow of the pharmacy to have it in stock and sitting on their shelves,” said Irby

He said the same issue exists with certain inhalers, another prescription many rely on daily. Irby said without, or even sometimes with, insurance, some inhalers retail for almost $500.

“Especially if there is a deductible to meet or something like that” he said.” It may be that it’s not covered at all, so that I the price.”

Irby said it’s hard to say where the board should start in terms of understanding why certain drugs cost as much as they do, but he anticipates an extensive amount of investigative research in their future.

“How to you eat an elephant? Well, one bite at a time. You have to start somewhere and start chipping away at it.

The board is also holding an executive session, closed to the public, where they will receive legal advice from the Oregon Department of Justice.