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Senators Hirono, Schatz Speak Out About Need for Lower Prescription Drug Prices

Hawai`i U.S. Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono expressed their support for a Senate vote on lowering prescription drug prices after AARP Hawai`i State Director Keali`i Lopez and Volunteer President Gary Simon presented virtual petitions to them with more than 19,000 Hawai`i residents asking for Congressional action. 

The petitions call for Congress to act now and stop unfair drug prices. AARP has called for fair drug prices for years and supports legislation that passed the House in November, which would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, put a cap on out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and impose penalties on drug companies that raise prices faster than the rate of inflation. 

“Americans are fed up with paying three times what people in other countries pay for the same drugs. More than four million people across the country, including more than 19,000 here in Hawai`i are joining AARP to demand lower prices for prescription drugs,” said Lopez said. “We thank Hawai`i’s senators and representatives for their strong and continued support. There will never be a better time to lower drug prices than the historic opportunity in front of Congress. Now it’s time to get it done!” 

“No one should be forced to ration the medication they need because it’s too expensive. I’ll continue working with strong advocates like AARP to lower the costs of prescription drugs and ensure everyone has access to the healthcare they need to stay healthy,” Hirono said in a video statement.
 
“Over the last decade, the cost of prescription drugs has increased by more than a third. This is unacceptable,” Schatz added in his remarks. “That starts with passing legislation to let Medicare negotiate drug prices directly. We should also empower the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to stop drug makers from price-gouging and we have to do everything we can to lower out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries. 

Hawai`i resident Masato Inaba shared a personal story of the cost of his brand-name cancer medication and thanked the senators for their support of legislation to lower prescription drug costs. Inaba’s weekly cancer treatment drug costs $16,000 per treatment. His out-of-pocket cost is about $1,600 a week and Medicare taxpayers pick up the rest of the cost. The treatment lasted eight weeks. 

“You don’t have a choice when you have an illness. It’s between having to deal with your cancer or paying the bill or not. If you don’t you don’t have a life expectancy of more than a couple of years. It’s a no-win situation for us. You just have to get some kind of medication to keep you alive,” Inaba said. 

Lowering prescription drug prices has widespread support among voters, regardless of their party affiliation. An AARP survey of voters found that strong majorities of voters want Congress to act on the issue, with 70% saying it is very important. The survey also found that 87% of voters support allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.  

More information about AARP’s Fair Drug Prices campaign can be found at aarp.org/rx. The petitions delivered to Sens. Schatz and Hirono are here:   
https://action.aarp.org/LowerRxNowSchatz  https://action.aarp.org/LowerRxNowHirono  

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