The stories are brief, but they convey a strong message:
“I want to retire, but I won’t be able to afford my medication if I do.”
“My sister rations her insulin at the end of the month until her social security check arrives.”
“I couldn’t pay for my medication anymore, so I stopped taking it.”
AARP Connecticut has been talking about the high cost of prescription drugs at events throughout the state, and wherever we go, we hear from people of all ages who are struggling to pay for the medication they need to stay healthy. We’ve been talking to legislators, and they all have stories about constituents who are concerned about the price of the prescriptions they depend on. At a time when pharmaceutical companies are posting massive profits, 40% of older Americans are worried that they will have to choose between buying food and buying medication.
New research from AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that retail prices for 97 widely used specialty prescription drugs — drugs that are used to treat complex and chronic conditions — increased an average of 7% between 2016 and 2017, outpacing the general inflation rate of 2.1% during the same period. The average annual retail cost for a single specialty drug was nearly $80,000 per year in 2017 — more than three times the median income for Medicare beneficiaries ($26,200) and more than four-and-a-half times higher than the average Social Security retirement benefit. The trend is worse for non-specialty brand name drugs and generics, which both experienced sharp increases (8.4% and 9.3%, respectively) in 2017.
During the 2019 legislative session, Connecticut lawmakers came close to passing legislation that would have allowed Connecticut pharmacies to import lower-cost prescription medications from Canada. The bill passed with bipartisan support in the House but fell victim to late-session politics in the Senate. Meanwhile, other states have been taking action: Vermont, Florida, Colorado, and Maine have all passed Canadian importation bills, and the president has directed his administration to clear the way for the federal approvals that will be needed for these state programs to get up and running.
The Governor and legislative leaders have indicated that a special session could be in the works to address tolls and other unfinished business. Lowering drug prices for Connecticut residents is part of that unfinished business. If Connecticut lawmakers return to Hartford this summer, they should pick up where they left off with Canadian drug importation and bring cheaper, safe prescription medication to the shelves of Connecticut pharmacies.
“I had to switch to a cheaper medication, but it doesn’t work as well, and I’m in constant pain.”
“I don’t have long to live because of my cancer, but I’m so worried about the cost of my medication that I can’t enjoy the time I have left.”
People are more important than pharmaceutical profits. It’s not too late for lawmakers to take action and ensure that Connecticut residents have access to safe and affordable prescription medication.
Anna Doroghazi is Associate State Director for Advocacy and Outreach for AARP Connecticut, which is included among the sponsors of this website.
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