Americans depend on their prescriptions - but from cancer treatments to EpiPens, drug companies' skyrocketing prices are pushing life-saving treatments out of reach for those who need them. We pay among the highest prescription drug prices in the world so drug companies can make billions.
Current drug prices are not sustainable. Medicare beneficiaries live on an average annual income of just over $26,000. Meanwhile, the average annual price for a specialty drug used for a chronic condition is now nearly $79,000. No one can afford medications that cost more than their annual income.
What's at stake: How to reduce what consumers in the United States have to pay for life-sustaining prescription drugs.
The issue: For many years drug prices have increased at rates far higher than inflation. In 2017, for instance, the average cost for a year's supply of a single prescription drug for someone with a chronic illness was over $19,000 — that's more than some retirees’ annual Social Security retirement benefit.
- President: Whoever is elected president and must decide whether to sign any bills Congress passes to reduce or regulate drug prices. His administration could also enact regulations that would allow the importation of lower-cost drugs from other countries.
- Senators and members of the House of Representatives: They can enact legislation to curb prices. Bills being considered range from allowing Medicare to negotiate prices to creating penalties for companies that raise prices more than the rate of inflation.
- Governors and state legislators: Governors and state legislators can pass bills allowing drugs to be imported from other countries or limiting drug-price increases. Some states already have laws creating drug-price monitoring boards, improving price transparency and recommending limits on price increases for specific medications, such as insulin.
What older Americans think
More than 80 percent of Americans do not believe that Congress is doing enough to lower prescription drug costs, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey showed. And 81 percent of voters 50-plus said candidates who ignore the rising cost of prescription drugs and other issues important to older Americans risk losing their vote, according to an AARP poll.
Where AARP Stands
AARP’s Stop Rx Greed campaign calls on lawmakers to act on these principles:
- Allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.
- Allow the importation of drugs.
- Increase price transparency.
- Speed up the process of getting generic drugs to the marketplace.