It’s unfair that Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world, and it is wrong that older adults are forced to choose between filling a prescription and buying food, or paying for utilities.

In fact, a 2017 study showed that 38 percent of Colorado residents stopped taking prescribed medications due to the high cost. The average annual cost of brand name prescription drug treatment increased 57.8 percent between 2012 and 2017, while the annual income for Coloradans only increased 12 percent.  

Bob Murphy, AARP Colorado state director is in the fray, working for AARP members, as well as all older Coloradans to push for much-needed change in the price of prescription drugs. This year, AARP launched Stop Rx Greed, an initiative that is calling on Congress for common-sense solutions to lower prescription drugs.

“We can approach the issue in several ways,” Murphy said. “It’s a federal issue in most cases, so I’ve been working in Washington, D.C. to advocate for all of these avenues of relief for Colorado seniors.”

AARP is advocating for the following:

  • Allow Medicare to negotiate prescription prices. Medicare spends more than $129 million in prescription medications. However, the program is prohibited by law from negotiating with drug companies for lower prices. The losers are the consumers, who pay more than twice as much as patients in other countries for the same brand-name drugs.
  • Cap out-of-pocket spending. One in 10 Medicare Part D enrollees with high out-of-pocket costs, spend at least $5,200 on their medicines a year. Many have chronic illnesses, which means they will face high costs for the rest of their lives and this forces them to choose between taking their medications as prescribed, or pay other essential bills to live.
  • Improve access to lower-costs generic drugs. Brand-name drug companies are slowing the availability of lower-priced versions of their drugs and paying generic companies not to produce a lower-priced version. It is time to crack down on these “pay-to-delay” agreements that keep drug prices artificially high.  

AARP supports U.S. House Bill H.R. 3, the “Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019” that would allow Medicare to negotiate and tie prescription prices to those overseas for brand name drugs that have no competition. HR 3, renamed the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act in honor of the late representative from Maryland, is expected to be voted on later this month.

“We have the ability to help AARP members with the prohibitive costs of prescriptions via this bill,” Murphy said. “And when we polled our Colorado members, 69% said it was important for the President or Congress to do so — and 65 percent support a limit on drug prices.”

AARP is working to ensure consumers have information about the problem and access to research findings.

“The argument that the higher prices are based on investment in R&D by Big Pharma, well, it doesn’t hold water when 80 percent of every dollar they make goes to something other than research and development,” he said. “These companies are hurting real people with their pricing policies and officials need to put policies in place to hold them accountable for it.”

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