As thousands of activists across the country gathered for the “People Over Pharma Profits” National Day of Action, local health care advocates and patients held a press conference and protest in Downtown Binghamton, calling on the United States Congress and the Trump administration to take action to lower drug prices.
The protest, held on Tuesday in front of Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s office at the Binghamton Metrocenter, aimed to raise awareness about expense of prescription drugs and pharmaceutical companies’ role in maintaining high prices. Protesters wore necklaces made out of empty prescription drug bottles and held signs with slogans such as “People over drug profits,” “I’m a health care voter” and “Health care is a human right.”
Leaders of Citizen Action of New York and Indivisible Binghamton, who coordinated the event, said they hoped their demonstration would push Brindisi and other members of Congress to implement reforms. Linda Quilty, a member of Citizen Action of New York and Indivisible Binghamton, said protesters were focusing on a bill introduced by Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett that would allow the government to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers and break the patents of pharmaceutical companies that refuse to come to the table in good faith.
“We have actually met with Anthony Brindisi about health care bills coming up,” Quilty said. “Even though this is not a fix-it for all, it’s a big step in the right direction, because right now it is written that [the government] can’t negotiate prices with Medicare.”
In an emailed statement to Pipe Dream, Brindisi wrote that his team is working with other representatives to introduce legislation to address the issue.
“I hear from families all across our district that drug prices are too high, and no family should have to choose between lifesaving medicine and putting food on their table,” he wrote. “We need to do everything we can to bring down drug prices in this country.”
But Cecily O’Neil, a member of Citizen Action of New York and Indivisible Binghamton, said health care access is an issue that crosses political and social lines, which is why publicly raising awareness about the issue is important.
“Anyone can end up having a disease or injury that requires specialized medications, so there needs to be more oversight and accountability because it can be a matter of life or death,” O’Neil said. “This is an instance of injustice in our nation.”
Scott Thiele said he has firsthand knowledge of how health care policy can save lives. Several years ago, his friend was diagnosed with cancer, and was only able to be treated because of former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“I feel like every American has a right to health care,” Thiele said. “People need to understand how important and critical this is.”
Coordinators also encouraged protesters and observers to contact their representatives about the issue.
“We want to try to get people to start calling their congressmen, like Brindisi, and pushing for this kind of legislation,” Quilty said. “It’s about awareness, education and trying to initiate getting people to make phone calls. People don’t realize how easy it is.”