Lorenzo Sierra

Midterm campaign season has kicked into high gear here in Arizona, a hotly contested state that political pundits often use as a barometer to determine which way the electoral winds are blowing. 

Right now, even though Election Day is months away, Democratic candidates in the Grand Canyon State are raising the alarm. Polling shows that their Republican challengers have made inroads with a number of key constituencies, and some Democrats are expressing a special concern about their eroding popularity with older Americans, a voting block that typically makes up two-thirds of the midterm electorate. 

For most older voters, rising costs are top of mind, no surprise since inflation has hit 10.9% in some parts of Arizona, and ahead of Election Day in November, candidates in competitive races, like Sen. Mark Kelly, are working overtime to deliver relief to their constituents. However, with razor-thin majorities in Congress, their options are limited, but thankfully, there’s still time for Democrats in Washington to come together and lower costs for Arizonans. 

One of the last remaining cost-cutting avenues open to Democrats before Americans cast their votes in November is prescription drug pricing reform, a key plank in President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and a core piece of the Democratic Party platform. For congressional Democrats, the idea of overhauling the prescription drug pricing system isn’t new. Last year saw the introduction of bills to allow Medicare negotiation and cap out-of-pocket spending on common medications, but unfortunately, Congress couldn’t get the legislation over the finish line.

That means that, now, Democratic candidates here in Arizona hoping to hold onto the majority in Washington have to bring the party together and double down on the fight to get prescription drug pricing reform to President Biden’s desk. 

Every year, prescription medications rank as some of Americans’ top costs — nearly 66% of people in the U.S. use at least one prescription drug, and pharmaceutical firms use a laundry list of tactics to keep prices high. One expert outlining the steady increase in the cost of prescription medications put the price increases into perspective, stating that, if the cost of gas rose at the same rate as prescription medications, it would cost $12.70 per gallon.  

Price hikes on prescription drugs have put an especially heavy burden on older Americans, who are far more likely than the average person to require a prescription from their doctor. In Arizona, people over the age of 50 typically need five prescription drugs, and the annual cost of a single brand name medication, used on a regular basis, is $6,426. While those eye-popping prices are bad enough, from 2015 to 2019, the annual cost of prescription drug treatment rose 26.3%, an unaffordable increase for older Arizonans living on a fixed income.

Those steadily increasing costs have put prescription drug pricing reform front and center for Arizona’s over 2.8 million voters over the age of 45, a demographic that’s likely going to make or break the upcoming midterm elections for Democrats in November. 

Recent polling suggests that support for prescription drug pricing reform, including policies like Medicare negotiation and capping out-of-pocket spending on commonly prescribed medications, is above 90%, and 65% percent of voters over the age of 50 believe that lowering the cost of prescription drugs should be Congress’ top priority.  

Fortunately, Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly seem to be listening to their constituents. Last year, Sen. Sinema emerged as a leading voice on prescription drug pricing reform, and Sen. Kelly has used his time in Congress to push his colleagues to pass legislation to lower the cost of basic medications. But time is ticking, and voters are expecting results. If Democrats want to maintain power in Washington, they’ll have to deliver on prescription drug pricing reform.