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New Data Shows Impact of Rising Drug Prices on Nebraskans

Researchers found that sales from drug companies' top 20 medicines cover the cost of all annual research, and still produces $40 billion in profits. (Pixabay)
Researchers found that sales from drug companies' top 20 medicines cover the cost of all annual research, and still produces $40 billion in profits. (Pixabay)
August 29, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. – According to new state data released by AARP Nebraska, 31% of Nebraskan adults have stopped taking a prescription drug because of rising costs.

Americans currently pay at least twice what people in other developed countries pay for the same medicine, and AARP Nebraska is urging its members to lean on the state's congressional delegation.

Bob Lassen, AARP Nebraska executive council volunteer, says as drug prices continue to rise, Americans are being forced to make difficult decisions.

"They need to actively approach their senators and their congressmen and say, 'These are important issues for us,’” he stresses. “’The decisions I'm making on my retirement income is whether I buy my medication for $1,000 a month, or I eat.'"

In Nebraska, the average cost of prescription drugs has increased by 58%, but average incomes are up by just 11%.

Medicines used for treating common conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer, have almost doubled between 2012 and 2017.

Drug companies blame some of the high costs on middlemen, and say high prices are necessary to finance research and development.

Analysis of industry data by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found that revenues from drug companies' top 20 medicines pay for all of their annual research and development, and still results in a profit of some $40 billion.

Lassen notes 80% of a company's cost for releasing new drugs goes into marketing, and the industry is also flush enough to spend billions convincing lawmakers to pass industry friendly legislation.

"The drug industry has one of the largest spends of lobbyists for congressional representatives of any industry," he points out.

AARP is urging Congress to allow Medicare, with its giant purchasing power, to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices.

The group also is calling for increased access to cheaper generic drugs, and capping out-of-pocket costs for people living on fixed incomes.

Disclosure: AARP Nebraska contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE