November 20, 2019
he price of a new invention usually falls as more people adopt it, but prescription drug prices somehow defy gravity.
Iowans, like all Americans, pay among the highest drug prices in the world, and prices keep climbing. We can’t change the laws of physics, but we can and must change federal law to bring needed relief.
For prescription drugs on the market, you might expect any price increase to be around the rate of inflation. Sadly, what we’ve seen in practice is that Big Pharma has raised the average annual cost of brand name prescription drug treatment 58 percent between 2012 and 2017. That far outstrips price increases for other goods and services. It also outstrips the average annual income for Iowans, which increased only 7.4 percent over the same time.
Iowa Medicare beneficiaries need prescription drug relief. Most live on fixed incomes that average just over $26,000, and the typical older Iowan takes more than 4 prescription drugs regularly. Meanwhile, the average annual price for a specialty drug used on chronic basis is now nearly $79,000 — for one single drug.
Here’s the good news: the US House of Representatives has advanced The Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 (H.R. 3) out of key committees, and we hope the bill will be on the floor soon.
AARP Iowa is grateful to Iowa’s U.S. Representatives Cindy Axne, Abby Finkenauer and Dave Loebsack for co-sponsoring this vital legislation. The House “Lower Drug Costs Now Act” offers real relief to older Americans. The bill would allow Medicare to use its buying power to negotiate lower drug prices, create an out-of-pocket cap for seniors in Medicare Part D, and crack down on excessive drug price increases.
This legislation would greatly benefit seniors and the federal budget. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for high-cost drugs with no competitors — rather than being forced to pay whatever sky-high rates Big Pharma sets — would save taxpayers a staggering $345 billion.
The House bill would plan to invest those savings back into Medicare by creating new dental, hearing, and vision benefits in the program. These needed investments would further improve the health and well-being of older Americans and help reduce health care costs down the road.
This is a tough fight against a powerful industry.
Yet the Des Moines Register is publishing advertisements asking Axne to oppose HR 3. I am used to a healthy debate of issues, but I have never seen an ad take a position so completely opposite from the reality of where Iowa seniors are on an issue.
Powerful interests want the status quo. Meanwhile, AARP Iowa continues to hear from thousands of Iowans with high cost drug stories who demand action.
We thank Iowa’s congressional representatives who are co-sponsoring HR 3, listening to Iowans, young and especially older, and ignoring the pressure from Big Pharma. Meanwhile, we continue to also thank Senator Grassley who has sponsored and led a bill out of US Senate Finance Committee to lower drug prices and costs. And the president has expressed support for action on drug prices.
It’s time to act.
We cannot simply allow prescription drugs to go up and up. AARP is determined to win this fight on behalf of older Americans, and we stand with all our elected officials who are committed to lowering drug prices.
Anthony Carroll is the State Director for Advocacy for AARP Iowa.