The AARP advocacy team represents more than 680,000 AARP members in Colorado, as well as all older adults and their families, and we strongly support initiatives to lower out-of-pocket drug costs.
Seniors ages 65 years and older make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population and currently about 14 percent in Colorado. This age group accounts for greater than 34 percent of all prescription medication use and 30 percent of over-the-counter use.
Notably, the average annual cost of drug therapy for one brand name drug used on a chronic basis would have been more than $4,600 lower in 2017 had their retail price changes been limited to the rate of general inflation between 2006 and 2017 (a whopping $2,178 vs. $6,798).
The average senior is taking four chronic drugs and according to the Kaiser Foundation, out-of-pocket costs can be as high as $16,600 for a single specialty drug.
Nearly 50 percent of seniors rely on Social Security to provide half of their income during retirement. For one in five seniors, Social Security provides 90 percent of their income, according to the U.S. Center on Budget & Policy Priorities.
With prescription drug prices rising (6.3 percent in 2018 per Fortune, Jan 2, 2019) more than three times the rate of inflation, which is 2.2 percent, and significantly higher than any social security cost of living at only 1.6 percent, every day choices are made between food, utilities and medications.
This alarming trend in price increases predicts a future in which older Coloradans, especially those on fixed incomes, will be unable to make ends meet. Furthermore, with prescription drugs now being about 16 percent of total healthcare costs, Medicare and Part D premiums, co-pays, and out-of-pocket costs will rise in response, thus compounding the financial distress for seniors who may no longer be able to afford healthcare, even with Medicare.
In response to concerns for Canadian prescription drug safety, there are 480 pharmaceutical companies registered and operating in Canada. Included are all the large U.S. pharmaceutical and biotech companies incorporated in the United States. Both the United States and Canada develop and manufacture drugs and biologics under the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals (ICH) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards, which are accepted and inspected by global health regulatory authorities. Adherence to these standards is most effective and financially efficient means to have new products registered as quickly as possible around the world.
Furthermore, while the majority of the United States Federal Drug Administration fast-tracked approvals are jointly reviewed between the United States and Canada, the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council formed in 2011 recognizes each other’s systems with a confidence that we can leverage each other’s science-based work. These provisions ensure the quality of medications distributed, marketed and sold in the United States and Canada. What is safe for the Canadian market is also safe for the U.S. consumer.
We in AARP Colorado appreciate ongoing efforts to explore new and creative avenues to curb the increasing costs of prescription drugs. That is why AARP is in strong support of Senate Bill 19-005.
_Shirley Leow, Ph.D., is chairwoman of the AARP Colorado Volunteer Legislative Advocate Team