PHOENIX, Arizona - With the cost of prescription drugs growing 69% faster than the average Arizona resident's income, the AARP and others are pushing Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
An AARP report finds in 2020, the price of hundreds of brand-name medications rose more than twice as fast as inflation. The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, pending in Congress, would allow federal officials to finally bargain with Big Pharma.
AARP Arizona President Dana Kennedy said she believes some of the state's elected officials are following the party line instead of protecting Arizonans from predatory pricing.
"Many of our Arizona delegation say that they're fiscally conservative," said Kennedy. "If you allow Medicare to negotiate, you're going to save $25 billion. So how can you be fiscally conservative and say that Medicare should not be able to negotiate?"
In 2019, Medicare paid more than $180 billion for prescription drugs in a system where pharmaceutical companies are allowed to charge whatever they want. The measure currently faces opposition from most Republicans and a few Democrats.
Kennedy said in 2020, despite a pandemic and an economic crisis, drug companies spent more than $6 billion on advertising and $160 million for lobbying to preserve the current system.
"They often say if Medicare were able to negotiate, it would stifle innovation, and that's just a lie by the drug industry," said Kennedy. "The truth is, they use our tax dollars to fund research and develop new drugs, and then they charge us more than anyone else in the world to buy those same drugs."
Kennedy said bargaining for lower drug prices is a very popular idea with most Americans.
"We will not back down," said Kennedy. "This is an issue that is amazingly popular with our members. I think 87% of the general population believe Medicare should be able to negotiate lower costs for prescription drugs."
The report finds with negotiated drug costs, seniors could save $117 billion over the next 10 years.
Source: Arizona News Connection