Roanoke resident struggling with medication costs urges Youngkin to sign Prescription Drug Affordability Board bill

Photo by James Yarema on Unsplash

By Amie Knowles

March 28, 2024

Billboard messages are hard to miss—and ones on wheels are even harder to ignore. If you live in Virginia, you might see a big, bright message rolling down the road. 

The “Make Medicine Affordable” Mobile Billboard tour kicked off in Roanoke this month, calling on Gov. Glenn Youngkin to lower prescription drug costs by signing bipartisan pieces of legislation into law. Both House Bill 570 and Senate Bill 274 aim to create a Virginia Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB), which would allow for a review of drug costs and limit how much state agencies, health plans, and individuals would pay for certain prescription medications.

If signed into law, the PDAB would have a direct impact on Virginians’ wallets. Altarum, a nonprofit research and consulting organization, reported that Virginians spent 36% more per person on prescription drugs than the national average in 2020.

The mobile billboard, a project by nonpartisan organization Freedom Virginia, will travel throughout the commonwealth over the coming days. At each stop, locals and leaders alike will share information about the board and how it could benefit Virginians. 

“We have been in the fight to pass a Prescription Drug Affordability Board for three years, and we are thrilled that this year, the PDAB has passed both the House and Senate for the first time ever,” said Rhena Hicks, executive director of Freedom Virginia.

Hicks noted that eight other states passed similar legislation and are making strides toward affordable medications for their residents. 

“Freedom Virginia supports this legislation because we believe that no person should ever have to choose between basic necessities and filling their medicines as prescribed—a choice that nearly 40% of Virginia residents reported having to make,” Hicks said. 

At the billboard’s opening rally in Roanoke, David Harper, a local resident deeply impacted by the soaring cost of medications, spoke about how the PDAB would help him. Harper revealed that he takes Eliquis, which he called “an expensive blood thinner [that] keeps me alive.”

Each time Harper, who noted he is uninsured, goes to the pharmacy to buy the prescribed medication, he pays $635. That buys just 60 tablets. He can’t skip a dose without potentially severe consequences, and according to Harper, his medication expenses more than doubled over the past decade. 

“In other words, we’re in a lose-lose situation,” Harper said, further noting that there “are many families like mine who worry that the cost of medicine will lead to financial ruin.”

Virginia voters overwhelmingly agree with the creation of the board, with a recent poll from AARP showing support by 85% of Democrats, 71% of Republicans and 70% of Independents. 

Youngkin has until April 8 to sign, amend, or veto the bills.

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.


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