RELEASE: ‘We Either Have To Pay It, or We Get To Die’; Michigan Student Calls Out Trump Administration’s Broken Promise To Lower Prescription Drug Prices

Washington, D.C. — As the Trump administration continues to threaten Americans’ health care in the federal courts—and with Secretary Alex Azar, a 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 Quinn Nichols, a 19-year-old student from Saginaw, Michigan, who has Type 1 diabetes. Given the Trump administration’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and Secretary Azar’s complete failure to address the life-threatening issue of prescription-drug price gouging as President Donald Trump promised, Nichols says that she worries that a time is coming where she won’t be able to afford her insulin. As she says in the video, her life depends on the ACA. 

“Insulin isn’t something I can choose to take. If I don’t have it, I will die. Health care is what I need to survive,” says Nichols. “It’s really infuriating because Alex Azar used to be the head of Eli Lilly, and when they raise insulin prices, we either have to pay it, or we get to die.”

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 Nichols and her mother Heather, to question whether the Trump administration has the interests of the people at heart, or if it is prioritizing those of the corporations responsible for prescription-drug price gouging that forces patients to ration their lifesaving medication. According to Nichols, the rising costs have had a significant impact on her family, even causing her mother to sometimes eat only once a day to manage costs for her insulin.

“We went from a pretty average family of four to a mom who was just making sure everyone else had enough to eat,” Heather says in the video. “I am angry. I am upset. Trump is on the side of business instead of people.”

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.

“I really don’t know if Trump understands these issues in health care. I honestly can’t tell if he doesn’t know or he just doesn’t care,” says Nichols. “It’s really scary to know Trump is trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. I don’t really think Trump understands what we go through. We’re people, we’re not just something for you to make money off of.”

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