It’s well known that prescription drug prices are skyrocketing in America. Price increases for brand name drugs have far exceeded the rate of inflation since at least 2006, according to AARP’s Rx Price Watch report. And the average annual cost for just one brand name drug taken on a chronic basis was about $6,800 in 2017, almost $1,000 more than in 2015. However, it’s not just patients paying for greedy Big Pharma practices that help keep drug prices high— it’s also taxpayers.
As part of AARP’s Stop Rx Greed campaign to help lower drug prices, the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) released a new analysis in October 2019 showing that Medicare (meaning beneficiaries and taxpayers) spent an extra $110 billion in recent years just on drug price increases that exceeded general inflation. That is an enormous amount of unnecessary spending.
So what does $110 billion look like in Montana? More than 17 times Montana’s total state spending in 2016 -- the total estimated government spending in Montana in fiscal year 2016 was $6.4 billion.
It’s also worth a whole lot of gas and groceries, as illustrated in a new AARP interactive infographic. We ran the numbers, which show that $110 billion in the U.S. could:
· Cover rent for 9 million American families for a year
· Pay a year of college for 9 million American students
· Buy groceries for 25 million American families for a year
· Buy gasoline for 56 million American families for a year
Let that sink in for a moment.
To reach the $110 billion figure, PPI analyzed 2013-2017 data from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Medicare Part D Spending Dashboard and Medicare Part B Spending Dashboard. PPI compared annual price changes for each drug to what they would have been if limited to the rate of general inflation and used the revised drug prices to generate updated Medicare spending estimates.
AARP Montana is fighting to lower drug prices for not only seniors but for all Montana residents. We’re pushing for action on state legislation and policies that will lead to meaningful, substantive reform and finally provide Montanans relief from high prescription drugs prices.
During the 2019 Montana Legislative Session, Montana legislators passed Senate Bill 270, which prohibits “gag clauses” in contracts between pharmacists and Pharmacy Benefit Managers. These gag clauses forbade local pharmacists from informing consumers that the drug they wanted to buy had a less-expensive generic alternative.
Additionally, the Montana House overwhelmingly passed House Bill 710, which sought to add more transparency to murky prescription drug pricing practices by requiring prescription drug manufactures and insurers to disclose pricing information on specific highly-expensive drugs. Unfortunately, Big PhRMA was able to kill that bill in the Montana Senate on a 25-25 tie vote.
AARP will continue to fight at the Montana State Legislature and at the federal level to lower the high cost of prescription drugs. AARP Montana will not stop fighting until everyone can afford the medications they need.
To learn more about AARP’s efforts to Stop Rx Greed, visit www.aarp.org/rx.
This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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