Affordable Prescription Drugs

High prescription drug prices are forcing Wisconsin families to make the impossible choice of paying for life-saving medications, or other essential expenses like rent and utilities. Prescription drug spending makes up around 10 percent of the cost of healthcare in the U.S., and more and more patients are concerned about how they can afford the medicine they need. 

“I support lower prescription costs. I just retired and my biggest expense is medical. That’s very difficult to make ends meet.” -Candy

Drug companies are driving high prices

U.S. law gives drug companies wide discretion on the prices of new drugs, and they have used that authority to charge high prices. One study from 2016 found that new anti-cancer drugs were six times more expensive (adjusted for inflation) in 2014 as compared to 2010. Between 2014 and 2015, brand-name prescription drug prices rose at 130 times the rate of inflation. Considering that 75 percent of new drugs are developed using federal taxpayer money, it is reasonable to ask how these price increases can be justified. 

Pharmaceutical companies also take advantage of drug monopolies, which occur when competitors stop producing older drugs, or after a corporate merger or acquisition reduces competition. In other cases, the market for specialty drugs is simply too small, and the lack of competition means that companies can charge whatever they like.

20200127_HI-FI Cafe_Mary Hart_pic - Jake Burns
“The prescription that I needed to be taking was going to cost $700 a month, which is completely out of the realm of possibility for most of the people I know.” -Mary

What Wisconsin families need

We can’t rely on the goodwill of big pharmaceutical companies for your family’s access to affordable prescription drugs. 

Prescription drugs should be affordable and accessible for hardworking families when they need them. No one needs the stress that comes from an endless back-and-forth between you and your insurance company, just to get medicine that your doctor says you need. Drug prices should be transparent, and companies shouldn’t be able to monopolize markets and drive up costs for families struggling to pay the bills. We need broad reform that allows companies to invest in innovative new drugs, without breaking the bank for working families.


  • Prescription Drug Policy Resource Center, National Council of State Legislatures (2019).
  • Issue Brief: Getting to the Root of High Prescription Drug Prices, The Commonwealth Fund (2017).
  • The Prescription Drug Policy Landscape, Explored, Pew Charitable Trusts (March 2019).
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy, Congressional Research Service R44832 (April 2018).

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