Glenna Martin said she suspects her husband might have died too young, at 76, because they couldn’t afford some of the drugs his doctors prescribed.
Now the 82-year-old Dallas resident faces some of the same worries about her own health.
Martin, a retired master machinist who raised five children during her 42-year marriage, has a number of health problems requiring expensive medications. She hasn’t purchased several of the drugs because of their exorbitant cost, she said.
“I can afford to pay my bills, but I can’t afford these medications,” Martin said.
She went without the eye drops prescribed after cataract surgery because they cost $200 for a 30-day supply. Because she is allergic to penicillin, her doctor prescribed an alternative antibiotic for a persistent stomach ailment—at a cost of $1,100 for a two-week supply.
“Who can afford that?” she asked, adding that she skipped the treatment because of the high cost.
As part of AARP’s national effort to combat high drug prices, Stop Rx Greed, AARP Texas is highlighting such stories as part of an awareness campaign aimed at getting people to demand action from their lawmakers in Washington.
Unaffordable drug prices threaten the health of many Texans. In 2017, 42 percent of Texans ages 19 to 64 stopped taking medication or skipped doses due to cost, according to AARP research.
Time to mobilize
This month the U.S. House of Representatives approved and sent to the Senate a bill that would lower the costs of prescription drugs for Medicare Part D enrollees by requiring the program to negotiate prices and cap out-of-pocket expenses.
Passage of congressional legislation “should be a slam dunk, but the fact of the matter is, the drug companies have lots of money and they are really fighting for the status quo,” said Tina Tran, AARP Texas state director.
“Our power comes from the millions and millions of people who are suffering from this. We can amplify their voices. The vast majority of our membership cares about this.”
With AARP’s vigorous support, Texas enacted a drug-price transparency law in June that will let consumers learn when the price of a prescription drug is increased by more than 15 percent in a year or 40 percent over three years. The disclosure requirement, covering all medicines that cost more than $100 for a 30-day supply, is intended to curb price increases.
“They’re going to have to explain to consumers why these prices are going up,” Tran said.
AARP Texas’ current push, aimed at the state’s representatives in Congress, is part of the organization’s nationwide Stop Rx Greed campaign.
AARP supports allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription prices, capping out-of-pocket costs and improving access to lower-cost generic drugs.
At the Riverfront Jazz Festival in Dallas, the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin and other events this year, AARP staff and volunteers set up booths, provided information and collected stories on the impact of high drug prices.
More than 700 people at the Dallas festival and nearly 600 in Austin signed a petition calling for lower prices.
“These are real people struggling to afford their medications,” said Charles Cascio, AARP Texas associate state director for advocacy. “They are people who are being forced to choose between paying for the medicines and paying their rent.”
Thomas Korosec is a writer living in Dallas.
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