Skyrocketing prescription drug prices have been a major, ongoing concern for many Americans, particularly older Americans. A new AARP survey confirms this: 72 percent of adults age 50 and older said they’re worried about being able to afford their medications. Seniors are especially vulnerable to rising drug prices because they take an average of 4.5 prescription drugs each month. In 2015 alone, Medicare beneficiaries spent nearly $27 billion in out-of-pocket costs for their prescription drugs.
To lead the fight to lower drug prices, we launched our Stop Rx Greed campaign, urging Congress, the President, and state lawmakers to take legislative and regulatory actions to cut drug prices. Specifically, we urge Congress to pass legislation that would:
- Allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate for lower prescription prices.
- Cap seniors’ out-of-pocket costs.
- Improve access to lower-cost generic drugs, including the CREATES Act and HR 1499/1564 to ban pay-for-delay deals.
“The recent Senate Finance Committee hearing, with executives from seven of the biggest pharmaceutical companies, showed that the finger pointing continues,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer, said during a recent AARP press briefing. “But the root cause of the drug price problem is clear: the high prices set by the drug companies. We must deal with this problem head-on.”
During the briefing to kick off the campaign, patient advocate Larry Zarzecki spoke about his personal struggle with affording his medications for Parkinson’s disease. As a retired state trooper, Larry has health insurance through the state of Maryland, but that hasn’t protected him from high prescription drug bills. His insurance does not fully cover two of the eight medications he needs to live a normal life, resulting in $3,200 out-of-pocket costs every month.
“As of January 1, 2019, my prescription costs for Parkinson’s disease went up over 6.2 percent, 3 times the rate of national inflation. That puts a strain on me, my family, and everyone else in my situation,” Larry told reporters. “Unfortunately, I’m starting to fall into the category of having to make the decision of whether to eat or to afford my treatment. Something is wrong, something is very wrong.”
Larry is not alone in thinking something is wrong. According to AARP’s 2019 Prescription Drug Survey, more than half (63 percent) of likely voters age 50 and older believe the prices of prescription drugs are unreasonable. What’s more, nearly 40 percent say that at some point they did not fill a prescription provided by their doctor. The most common reason? Cost.
It’s time to solve this prescription drug crisis. To convince lawmakers at the Federal and state level to act, we’re making our Stop Rx Greed message loud and clear through television ads, a strong social and digital media presence, and grassroots advocacy efforts by AARP’s nearly 38 million members.
“It’s going to take some time to produce cost savings and bring these drug prices down to an acceptable level for consumers,” John Hishta, AARP’s Senior Vice President of Campaigns, said during the briefing. “We’ll be successful if we reach the point where we think the drug industry is no longer gouging the American people.”
For more on the Stop Rx Greed campaign and prescription drug survey, visit www.AARP.org/rx. You can also listen to a recent episode of AARP’s Take on Today Podcast with Bob Edwards to hear learn more.