AARP is launching a crusade against high drug prices which it says continued to rise during the pandemic and beyond. New research shows that 75 of the 100 brand name drugs with the highest total Medicare Part D spending had already increased their list prices in the first month of 2022, AARP said.
“Americans are sick and tired of Congress’ broken promises to bring down the price of prescription drugs,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President. “As Americans pay more and more for many consumer goods, Congress has an historic opportunity to lower drug prices and help seniors ... afford their medications and other essentials.”
AARP has called for lower drug prices for years and is now urging the Senate to pass legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, put a cap on out-of-pocket costs that older adults pay for their prescription drugs and impose penalties on drug companies that raise prices faster than the rate of inflation.
Without congressional action, pharmaceutical companies will remain free to set high prices and raise them without any warning or justification, the organization said.
Biden's plan for lower drug prices
During the State of the Union address, President Biden called for Congress to bring down the price of prescription drugs as a way to help consumers manage rising prices. The House of Representatives passed several prescription drug measures as part of the Build Back Better Act in November, but the Senate has yet to pass similar legislation.
Biden had previously proposed establishing a "clearly defined negotiation process that is fair for manufacturers, and gets the biggest savings on drugs that have been on the market a long time."
He said his plan would "discourage drug companies from abusing laws to prolong their monopolies, while encouraging investments in research and development of new cures." Under his proposal, drug companies that refuse to negotiate would owe an excise tax.
AARP turns up the heat
AARP isn't just issuing statements. It has launched a TV and digital ad campaign featuring Larry Zarzecki, a retired law enforcement officer with Parkinson’s disease who was forced to sell his home in order to afford his medications.
Zarzecki first shared his story in an AARP ad three years ago, but Congress’ failure to act means he has had no relief from the high cost of his treatments. As he says in the new ad, “I shouldn’t have to decide between my home or my medicine because Congress refuses to act. I’m tired of waiting for Congress.”
AARP’s seven-figure ad buy includes television and digital advertising in the DC area, and television in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada and Pennsylvania. The ad featuring Zarzecki’s story can be viewed here.
High Rx prices affect everyone
High and growing prescription drug prices will eventually affect all Americans in some way, according to the AARP study. For example, those with private health insurance will pay higher cost sharing and premiums.
Increased government spending driven by drug price increases will lead to higher taxes and/or less spending for other priorities. Equally important, high drug prices and related costs will prompt more older Americans to stop taking necessary medications.