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Report: Drug Prices For Older Californians Continue To Soar

March 10, 2008

Los Angeles, CA - Older Californians are spending much more than they used to on their medications. A new study has found the price of prescription drugs commonly used by people enrolled in Medicare's "Part D" plan increased over 7 percent last year, which is more than double the rate of inflation.

The study questions why pharmaceutical companies dramatically increased the costs of popular brand name drugs at the same time Medicare began offering drug coverage. Christina Clem, with AARP California , believes more needs to be done to keep drugs affordable and, in the meantime, there are ways for consumers to save money.

"The increase is disturbing and it's one of the reasons AARP puts the Watchdog report out. We think it's important that everyone knows prescription prices are rising much higher than the rate of inflation. It's something people need to be aware of in order to be better consumers."

The trade group representing pharmaceutical companies acknowledges that drug prices are up, but argues they're not rising as quickly as they have in the past, and that prescription prices have increased less than overall medical costs since 2000.

Clem adds it's important for patients to talk to their doctors and pharmacists about options that could save money.

"Ask them if there are generic alternatives and if one of those alternatives might be better for them. Another is to call around to different pharmacies that take their insurance and see who has the lowest price."

Clem also encourages online comparison-shopping for prescription prices, using Web sites like www.pharmacychecker.com.

Lori Abbott/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - CA