Washington, D.C. — As the Trump administration continues to threaten Americans’ health care in the federal courts—and with former Big Pharma lobbyist Alex Azar 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 will tell stories of Americans such as Nicole Smith-Holt, a mother from Minneapolis, whose son Alec died because of the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs produced by companies such as Eli Lilly and Co., which was formerly led by HHS Secretary Azar. Alec was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 25 and soon after lost his life to the disease because he could not afford the price of his insulin. Smith-Holt says that what happened to her son could happen to anyone who lives with Type 1 diabetes because of the broken promise of the Trump administration.
“Everyday, normal people are playing Russian roulette with their lives. My son, Alec Smith, had Type 1 diabetes. Alec died because he could not afford his insulin. It’s a fear of every single Type 1 diabetic,” she says in the video. “Next month, they’re not going to be able to afford their insulin, and they’re going to become a statistic. Their name is going to go on the list with Alec,” she continues.
HHS Secretary Azar came under intense scrutiny during his Senate confirmation process 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. It’s a record that has led many, including Smith-Holt, to question if the Trump administration can be trusted to address the problem of prescription drug price gouging that forces patients such as Alec to ration their lifesaving medication.
“If [Donald] Trump wanted to make an impact, the last person in the world he should have appointed to that position would have been Alex Azar. Alex Azar single-handedly raised the price of insulin 300 percent while he worked at Eli Lilly,” she says.
President Trump promised that his administration would work to combat this issue. But instead, the Trump administration’s tax bill granted billions of dollars in tax breaks to Big Pharma companies and even allowed top-performing companies such as Eli Lilly to “zero out” their federal income taxes as drug prices continued to soar. Smith-Holt says that she cannot trust the ethical lapses of the Trump administration.
“Do I believe Donald Trump and Alex Azar? No. We cannot count on them to be ethical. We cannot count on them to do the right thing. They’ve made a lot of promises, but they’re all empty promises. There’s been no follow-through,” she says.
While it’s too late for her son, Smith-Holt says its important for her to continue to raise her concerns about prescription drug price gouging.
“What the pharmaceutical industry has done is shameful. Eli Lilly tomorrow could lower their price and still make a profit,” she says. “We need to continue to let our elected officials know that this is important to us. We can’t let the memory of our loved ones who’ve passed away die in vain. We need to raise up their stories and fight for what’s right.”
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