FOX13 INVESTIGATES: Fighting to survive prescription drug prices in the US

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s a struggle and a decision that no family should face, whether to buy life-saving medicine or put food on the table.

According to AARP, the average cost of the prescriptions most of us rely on is up 300% over the past 15 years.

FOX13 is going to tell the story of a patient fighting for change and removing giant barriers in the way of lower prices.

“These are the injection pens,” said Mindy Solango.

Mindy Solango starts every day making sure she has the medication and devices she needs to treat her Type 1 diabetes.

“My continuous glucose monitor,” she said.

These are things she depends on that add up quickly.

“With insulin and everything, is about $350 a month,” she said.

Mindy said it was even tougher years ago when she was a single mom with a different insurance plan. Back then, she paid around $500 a month.

“It became really difficult,” she said. “I was rationing insulin, not eating as much.”

But Mindy isn’t the type to sit down while struggling.

She took her fight all the way to Washington.

“Our only option is to pay or die,” Solango said.

Her frustration reflects the emotions across many homes in our community.

FOX13 made a records request with the Federal Trade Commission that showed nearly 100 public complaints about different problems with drug prices over the last three years.

One person wrote that his wife lost her discounted price after signing up for Medicare.

Some people wrote about battling their insurance companies over out-of-pocket drug costs.

“I don’t understand why our representatives are allowing this to happen,” Solango said.

FOX13′s Washington News Bureau took the question to Capitol Hill.

Members of both parties agree it’s a problem that needs to be fixed but disagrees on how to fix it.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee released two different reports about drug pricing, one from each party.

Democrats point to unfair business practices in the pharmaceutical industry.

“They target American consumers with higher prices,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire.

Republicans blame pharmacy benefit managers, also known as PBMs.

These managers work for companies that manage prescription drug benefits for insurers.

“PMBs increase patient co-pays,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky.

Republicans argue PBMs often steer patients to higher drug costs in order to get higher rebates.

“Without greater transparency of PBMs, it’s difficult to see how these tactics are benefiting patients at all,” Comer said.

“The first thing is this isn’t a partisan issue,” Solango said. “I mean diabetes didn’t ask me if I wasn’t Democratic or Republican.”

“We’re all struggling, and you’ve got to listen,” she said.

That struggle is even greater in the Mid-South.

A report that ranks the cheapest prescription drug prices by state from medicare-guide.com, lists Maine at the top, Mississippi comes in at number nine and Arkansas at 13.

According to the report, Tennessee ranks last for the most expensive drug prices for people on Medicaid. Yet FOX13′s Washington News Bureau said there is no bi-partisan plan to fix drug prices.