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Wyoming Lawmakers Could Tackle Lower Rx Prices

In 2015, Medicare beneficiaries spent $27 billion in out-of-pocket drug costs. (Needpix)
In 2015, Medicare beneficiaries spent $27 billion in out-of-pocket drug costs. (Needpix)
January 2, 2020

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A state and national campaign led by AARP to rein in rising prescription drug prices is making headway, and Wyoming lawmakers say they are getting the message, especially from folks living on fixed incomes.

Sam Shumway, AARP Wyoming state director, said the median income for Medicare beneficiaries is just $26,000 a year, and that doesn't go a long way for folks who on average fill four and five prescriptions a month.

"It's a very real pocketbook issue," he said. "When you are having to make these hard decisions about whether to buy groceries or pay for your medication, that's a big problem. And that's, I think, the frustration that these legislators are hearing."

Shumway pointed to legislation recently passed in Florida that would allow lower-cost medicine to be imported from Canada as one option Wyoming lawmakers could consider in the upcoming session. Big Pharma has argued that high profit margins help underwrite their research and development costs, which have produced significant advances in medicine.

Nationally, the United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as other comparable countries, and high drug prices are a significant driver of rising costs. Shumway said the AARP Stop Rx Greed campaign isn't about discouraging continued research and development, but it's important to find middle ground.

"That place where people don't feel like they're being taken advantage of," he said, "and that the drug company executives are making millions and millions of dollars, and they're trying to figure out how to pay for their prescriptions."

At the federal level, a bill to allow Medicare to use its significant purchasing power to negotiate with drugmakers for lower prices has cleared the U.S. House, but has not yet been taken up by the Senate. Another measure would close loopholes that keep lower-cost generic drugs off the market. President Donald Trump also has voiced support for pressuring drug companies to cut prices.

More information about the Florida law is online at fdalawblog.net, the text of HR 3 is at congress.gov, and the generic bill is at fas.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY