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Colorado Lawmakers Consider Cost-Saving Canadian Rx Sales

Insulin, a critical medicine for people with diabetes, can cost 90 percent less in Canada than in the United States. (Pixabay)
Insulin, a critical medicine for people with diabetes, can cost 90 percent less in Canada than in the United States. (Pixabay)
April 9, 2019

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are considering a measure that would help consumers cut their prescription drug costs by allowing them to buy the same medicine from Canada at prices far below those charged in the U.S.

According to AARP, the median annual income for Medicare beneficiaries is $26,000, and people with chronic conditions pay more than $13,000 a year out-of-pocket for medicine. Shirley Leow, a former vice president with AVI BioPharma, supports Senate Bill 5.

"Rising drug costs are posing challenges to many seniors in America who have to make choices between buying food, paying their utility bills or affording their medications,” Leow said.

She noted in Canada, blood-pressure medicine sells for a third of its U.S. price tag, and the cost of insulin is 90 percent lower.

AARP has launched a national campaign to stop drug companies from what it sees as price gouging. Drug companies have long argued that high profit margins are necessary for research and development, and say those investments have led to significant innovations.

S.B. 5 has cleared the Colorado Senate and is set to be heard in the House Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday.

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.

Leow said Big Pharma spends far more on advertising than it costs to develop new drugs.

"It only amounts to less than 20 percent of their overall budget,” she said. “And so the marketing and advertising costs well exceed anything that goes to R&D."

AARP's 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 on out-of-pocket drug costs.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO