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AARP Survey: Majority of Older Americans Concerned About Affording Prescription Drugs

Blue Capsules on a Prescription Form
Roel Smart

A new AARP survey released today shows that more than half (58%) of adults 50 and older are concerned they will not be able to afford prescription drugs over the next few years for themselves or their families. Three in four (77%) reported they take prescription medications on a regular basis, and one-fifth said they chose not to fill a doctor’s prescription in the last two years. Cost was the most common reason given for not filling a prescription. When asked if they agreed that drug prices could be lowered without harming innovation of new medicines, about 80% strongly or somewhat agreed.

“It’s clear that Americans are sick and tired of paying the highest prices in the world for their prescription drugs,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer. “Medications don’t work if you cannot afford to take them. Congress and the President must act now to lower unfair drug prices and make sure all Americans can afford the medications they need.”

AARP’s survey also asked participants their opinions on policy changes that could lower the cost of prescription drugs. Respondents overwhelmingly agree that it is important for the president and Congress to solve the problem this year, especially among Black and Hispanic participants (80% and 77%, respectively). Support for various policy proposals is very high across party lines, including:

  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices (87% favored).
  • Putting a cap on out-of-pocket costs that older adults pay for their prescription drugs under Medicare Part D (78% favored).
  • Preventing drug companies from charging more for drugs in the U.S. than they do elsewhere (77% favored).
  • Closing loopholes that allow drug companies to charge higher prices for copycats or minor improvements (74% favored).
  • Penalizing drug companies that raise their prices faster than inflation (71% favored).

AARP Public Policy Institute’s most recent Rx Price Watch report showed that retail prices for 260 widely used brand name prescription drugs increased more than twice as fast as general inflation in 2020 during the pandemic, rising 2.9% compared to an inflation rate of 1.3%. The average annual cost for one brand name medication used on a regular basis was over $6,600, more than $1,500 higher than in 2015.

AARP’s national survey included 1,605 registered voters ages 50 and older and was conducted by phone from June 1-13, 2021. To view the full survey results, visit https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/health/info-2021/drug-prices-older-americans-concerns/.

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