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Higher Prices Lead Oregonians to Skimp on Prescription Drugs

In 2016, 30% of Oregonians stopped taking their medication as prescribed because of cost, according to AARP Oregon. (v_l/Adobe Stock)
In 2016, 30% of Oregonians stopped taking their medication as prescribed because of cost, according to AARP Oregon. (v_l/Adobe Stock)
August 28, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – The rapidly rising prices of prescription drugs could be pushing some Oregonians to make tough choices.

The average annual cost of prescription drugs in Oregon increased more than 57% between 2012 and 2017, according to data collected by AARP Oregon. It also found that in 2016, 30% of Oregonians had stopped taking some medications as prescribed because of cost. Ruby Haughton-Pitts, AARP Oregon state director, said that can be a life-or-death decision.

"Some of the news that we're hearing about people who are actually dying because they weren't taking their diabetes drug or they weren't taking their cancer drug, or they had a subsequent heart attack that killed them because they weren't taking the prescribed medication," she said, "this ends with loss of life."

Haughton-Pitts noted that Americans can pay twice what people in other countries pay for the same brand-name drug. She said the United States needs to look for solutions to fix this issue, including the option to import drugs from other countries.

Judy Bowen, a retired resident of Dallas, Ore., has Type 2 diabetes and is allergic to the drug covered by Medicare. On a fixed income, she said, she's faced hard decisions on how to afford the life-saving drug she takes.

"My insurance will cover all but $250, which is still hard when you're retired," she said, "and, you know, I do have to go without some things just to be able to afford the medication."

Drug makers cite the high cost of developing new drugs as one reason prices go up. However, according to the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, only 22% of revenue to the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies went to research and development in 2017.

The AARP data is online here and here.

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