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Campaign Makes Headway Targeting High Prescription Prices

The United States spends twice as much on health care as do other comparable countries, largely because of rising drug prices. (Galatas)
The United States spends twice as much on health care as do other comparable countries, largely because of rising drug prices. (Galatas)
July 3, 2019

DENVER - AARP is making headway on its federal- and state-level campaign to stop drug companies from price gouging.

Bob Murphy, AARP Colorado state director, said prescription drug prices are a leading driver of rising health-care costs year over year, and U.S. consumers frequently pay twice as much for the same medicine as do patients in other countries. He said it's time to implement some common-sense solutions.

"We do think that Medicare should be allowed to negotiate prescription prices; they currently are prohibited by law from doing that," he said. "That seems like a very reasonable first step."

In 2015, Medicare beneficiaries spent $27 billion in out-of-pocket drug costs. Murphy noted that Medicare beneficiaries have a median income of $26,000, but many pay more than $13,000 a year out-of-pocket for medicine. Drug companies long have argued that high profit margins are necessary to fuel research and development, and have said those investments have led to significant innovations.

AARP also is targeting so-called "pay-for-delay" deals, where companies pay generic competitors to keep lower-priced drugs off the market. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the deals cost consumers and taxpayers $3.5 billion in higher drug costs every year. Murphy said he understands that it takes a lot of research and development to develop ground-breaking medicines.

"But that doesn't really answer the question of why the same drugs are less expensive in other countries," he said, "and why they continue to have these cozy little deals between them to make sure there's no competition."

AARP Colorado was a major force behind the passage of Senate Bill 5, which would allow the state to import less expensive pharmaceuticals from Canada. The measure, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis, requires approval from the Trump administration before going into effect.

More information on the campaign is online at aarp.org.

Disclosure: AARP Colorado contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO