Coloradans Need Relief from Rx Greed

By Bob Murphy, AARP Colorado State Director ~

For decades, Big Pharma has raised drug prices with impunity. Here in Colorado, the average annual cost of brand name prescription drug treatment increased 58 percent between 2012 and 2017, while the annual income for Coloradans increased only 12.2 percent.

Prescription drugs do not work if patients can’t afford them.

For too long, drug companies have been price gouging older adults and hardworking Americans. Consider insulin, prescribed for people who suffer with diabetes. Its price nearly tripled from 2002 to 2013. However, it is not a breakthrough drug. Insulin, invented nearly a century ago, remains under patent, thanks to drug makers manipulating the system. Some patients trek to Canada, while others risk their lives by rationing or skipping doses.

Even those who don’t need prescription drugs pay because of skyrocketing drug prices. We pay not only at the pharmacy counter, but also through higher insurance premiums and higher taxes to fund programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Older Americans are hit especially hard. Medicare Part D enrollees take an average of 4-5 prescription drugs per month, and their average annual income is about $26,000. One in three Americans does not take a medication as prescribed because of the cost.

The problem is clear: the high prices of prescription drugs set by pharmaceutical companies when they first come on the market, which then increase faster than inflation year after year.

In March, AARP launched a nationwide campaign called “Stop Rx Greed” to rein in drug prices for all Coloradans and all Americans. The bill under consideration in the Senate would cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors and crack down on drug makers whose price hikes outpace inflation.

The nation clearly needs reform. The average drug price increase in the first six months of 2019 was 10.5 percent – five times the rate of inflation. Coloradans, like all Americans, already pay among the highest drug prices in the world.

Meanwhile, Big Pharma is fighting for the status quo – and blocking needed improvements to the system that could bring relief to seniors, families and small businesses. Drug giants Merck, Amgen and Eli Lilly actually sued the Trump administration so they could keep the list prices of their drugs secret from the public. The industry is spending record sums to hire Washington lobbyists, and running ads claiming more affordable drugs will actually harm consumers.

But the tide is turning. The National Academy for State Health Policy reports that, so far this year, 29 states have passed 47 new laws aimed at lowering prices for prescription medications.

The Colorado Legislature passed a bill this session to develop a program for the wholesale importation of prescription pharmaceutical products from Canada.

Ultimately, drug costs are a national issue, so federal action is equally essential.

We urge the Senate to pass the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act in the fall, when the House is expected to act on its own drug-pricing bill.

Too much is at stake. Coloradans shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and buying a lifesaving medication. Congress must act to stop Rx greed.

Sources:

Price of insulin increasing https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/50-states/2019/03/21/diabetes-insulin-costs-diabetics-drug-prices-increase/3196757002/ and https://www.healthcostinstitute.org/research/publications/entry/spending-on-individuals-with-type-1-diabetes-and-the-role-of-rapidly-increasing-insulin-prices

Not taking medication as prescribed due to cost https://www.kff.org/health-costs/poll-finding/kff-health-tracking-poll-february-2019-prescription-drugs/

Transparency rule lawsuit https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/14/politics/drug-makers-hhs-lawsuit/index.html

PhRMA lobbying https://www.statnews.com/2019/01/22/phrma-spent-a-record-breaking-27-5-million-on-lobbying-in-2018-new-filings-show/

NASHP Rx law tracking https://nashp.org/rx-legislative-tracker-2019/


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