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After a settlement instead of what would have been the first trial in the landmark court case on the opioid crisis, we look at what 2020 candidates want to do about drug pricing.

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AARP Nebraska Joins Campaign to Lower Rx Costs

AARP's 38 million members across the country are taking on the drug companies over high drug costs with TV, digital and radio advertising, grassroots action, social media and events. (USAF)
AARP's 38 million members across the country are taking on the drug companies over high drug costs with TV, digital and radio advertising, grassroots action, social media and events. (USAF)
March 29, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. – AARP has launched a federal- and state-level campaign to stop drug companies from price gouging.

Connie Benjamin, state director of the group's Nebraska chapter says the average Medicare beneficiary has a median income of $26,000, but people with chronic conditions are paying more than $13,000 dollars a year out-of-pocket for medicine.

She says no one should be forced to jeopardize their health because they can't afford the proper medicine.

"Many people are having to choose between buying and taking their medication, and foregoing food, housing and utilities,” says Benjamin. “And that just should not be happening in our country today."

A recent AARP poll found more than 70 percent of likely voters age 50 and older are concerned about drug costs, and 90 percent say Congress should reverse rules banning Medicare from negotiating for lower prices.

Drug companies have long argued that high profit margins are necessary for research and development, and say those investments have led to significant innovations.

Benjamin says prescription drug prices in the U.S. are the highest in the world. She adds that because pharmaceutical companies also are able to leverage tax dollars through federal grants and public universities, there needs to be transparency and accountability.

"We know that drug companies spend billions of dollars on advertising each year, and that's shameful and it makes drugs more expensive,” says Benjamin. “They spend more on advertising than it costs to develop new drugs."

The campaign also calls for giving state attorneys general the authority to crack down on large price increases, and closing loopholes that keep lower-cost generic drugs off the market.

In 2015, Medicare beneficiaries spent $27 billion in out-of-pocket drug costs. Nationally, the U.S. spends twice as much on health care as do other comparable countries.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE