Washington, D.C. — As the Trump administration continues to threaten Americans’ health care in the federal courts—and with Alex Azar, former president of the pharmaceutical drug company Eli Lilly, at the helm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—the Center for American Progress Action Fund is releasing a new video in a social media campaign to educate Americans on what’s at stake.
The campaign is telling stories of Americans such as Jazmine Baldwin of Raleigh, North Carolina, whose older sister Jada, a Type 1 diabetic, tragically fell into diabetic ketoacidosis and passed away at the age of 24. According to Baldwin, her sister could not afford the price of her insulin, which is manufactured by companies including Eli Lilly. At the time of her passing, Jada had not had access to insulin for nearly three weeks. Baldwin says that what happened to her sister was completely avoidable, and despite the Trump administration’s promises, prescription drug costs remain far too high.
“[M]y sister had Type 1 diabetes, and she couldn’t afford her insulin. She passed. It could have been avoided. It didn’t have to happen,” she says. “One of Trump’s promises was to lower drug prices, and his choice to do that is Alex Azar, the former CEO of Eli Lilly—one of the three companies responsible for the steady increase in the price of insulin.”
HHS Secretary Azar came under intense scrutiny during his Senate confirmation hearing for his role in drug pricing while at Eli Lilly. During Azar’s tenure at the pharmaceutical giant, the company raised the price of insulin by 300 percent. Azar’s record has led many, including Baldwin, to question if the Trump administration can be trusted to address the problem of prescription-drug price gouging that forces patients like Jada to ration their lifesaving medication.
“Decisions like the one he [Trump] made with Alex Azar shows Trump does not care about the average American,” Baldwin says. “There are thousands of people who desperately need lower drug costs.”
Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan H.R. 3, or the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The sweeping legislation would allow the government to negotiate for lower prices for hundreds of prescription drugs, including insulin and other lifesaving medications. Although the bill passed the House with unanimous Democratic support and a few Republican votes, the Senate, led by Mitch McConnell (R-KY), has refused to take it up. The White House even threatened to veto the bill if it came to President Trump’s desk.
President Trump promised that his administration would work to combat the issue of high prescription drug costs, saying, “We’re going to get drug prices so far lower than they are right now, your head will spin.” But instead, the Trump administration’s tax bill granted billions of dollars in tax breaks to Big Pharma and allowed top performing companies such as Eli Lilly to “zero out” their federal income taxes as drug prices continued to soar.
“Me and my sister, we were two peas in a pod. She was my best friend. She always had a smile on her face. She knew a thousand people, and everybody knew her,” she says. “I’m going to keep fighting for the things I wish my sister would have had. Everything I do now, I try to make sure she would be proud.”
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