Seven years ago, Kenmore resident, Gina Mara said she began feeling discomfort she couldn't ignore. “I started to notice that my joints were swelling and very painful, and I couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes,” Mara said.
Doctors diagnosed her with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and prescribed oxycodone to help with pain management. “This is something that I have to take every day to function in order to get up in the morning. The pain is crippling.”
It’s also costly. Mara said she pays about 50 dollars a month for the painkillers. That's why she's concerned to hear an Albany based group called “Friends of Recovery New York” is pushing lawmakers to charge a fee to pharmaceutical companies. “That's going to have a trickledown effect on us. “Big Pharma” is not going to get away with that without the patients paying that.”
“We don't want consumers to be the one bearing the brunt of this. So. There are ways to have fees that are not passed onto the consumer,” said Friends of Recovery NY acting director, Stephanie Campbell.
It's not the first time an idea similar to a pharmaceutical fee has been floated. Last year, some federal reps proposed imposing a tax on all opioids. In that case though, the patient would be the one footing the bill. Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein disagrees with an opioid tax. “For a government to tax those individuals because they require a certain medication is not fair,” she said.
Patients like Gina Mara agree, and she thinks a tax, or even a fee for that matter, will only hurt her bottom line. “You start charging the pharmaceutical companies an extra fee for a product, they're going to make it up somehow through the patients.”
Campbell said the group is only in its early brainstorming stages. No bill has been drafted, yet. But, the group is looking to design something to hold opioid manufactures more accountable.