In most cases, the cost of a new product falls the longer it is on the market, but prescription drug prices somehow defy gravity. Delaware residents, like all Americans, pay among the highest drug prices in the world, and costs keep climbing. There is no reason why Americans should pay three times what people in other countries pay for the same medicine. And it’s just wrong that people are forced to choose between filling their prescriptions and paying rent or buying groceries.
It doesn’t have to be like this. The president, the House and the Senate have an opportunity and broad public support to cut drug prices now.
AARP is urging Congress to support allowing Medicare to use its power to negotiate for lower drug prices with manufacturers. Every year, Medicare spends more than $129 billion on prescription drugs. Yet, it’s prohibited by law from using its buying power to negotiate with drug companies to get lower prices. Giving Medicare the power to negotiate will save people on Medicare $117 billion over 10 years and lower prescription drug costs for all Americans.
A recent AARP survey shows that more than half (58%) of adults 50 and older are concerned they will not be able to afford prescription drugs over the next few years for themselves or their families. Respondents overwhelmingly agreed, across party lines, that it is important for the president and Congress to solve the problem this year, with 87% supporting allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices.
Illness does not pick the best time to strike nor does it discriminate or choose a political side. Everyone is vulnerable to unexpected sickness and needing prescription medicine to keep themselves or a loved one alive. When you’re sick, your energy should be focused on getting better, not on how you will pay for treatment and still have money for food and bills.
The average senior takes four or five prescriptions each month, usually on a chronic basis. With an average annual price tag of $6,600 for just one brand-name drug, that quickly adds up to more than the median annual income for people on Medicare. One in 3 Americans has not taken a medication as prescribed because of the cost.
To give one example, here in Delaware, we know there are about 95,000 people living with cancer. One common cancer medication, Revlimid, jumped from an annual price of $186,234 in 2015 to $268,319 in 2020. These price increases are unsustainable.
We are fighting for positive change on behalf of AARP’s 188,000 members in Delaware and for all Delawareans. Even those who don’t currently need prescription medicines are affected by skyrocketing drug prices. We pay not only at the pharmacy counter but through higher insurance premiums and the higher taxes we need to pay to fund programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
At AARP, we have tracked the prices of the most commonly used prescription drugs for well over a decade. Every year, the prices of these drugs have risen faster — often much faster — than the prices of other goods and services. Our most recent Rx Price Watch Report, which looked at 260 widely used brand-name medications, found that their prices rose more than twice as fast as general inflation in 2020 — and that’s in the middle of a pandemic and financial downturn.
It is wrong that, even during the COVID-19 and financial crises, drug companies increased the prices of more than 1,000 products last year, including those for chronic conditions that people over age 50 depend on.
Expanding and improving American health care has never been more critical, and it’s time for Congress to take action to lower prescription drug costs for Delawareans and millions of people across the country. This is a tough fight against a powerful industry. Nothing short of political courage from the president and Congress will fix an unfair system that is rigged against Americans. Prescription drugs do not work if patients cannot afford them. Find out more at aarp.org/rx.
Lucretia Young is the state director of AARP Delaware.