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Press Briefing on AARP's Prescription Drug Affordability Campaign and 2004 Advocacy Agenda

Press Briefing on AARP’s Prescription Drug Affordability Campaign and 2004 Advocacy Agenda

Statement by William D. Novelli, AARP CEO
January 16, 2004

Good morning, and welcome to AARP. With the enactment of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, older Americans and their families won major assistance in the struggle against the high cost of prescription drugs.

We outlined our requirements last summer in a detailed letter to the Congressional leadership, and on balance, we achieved a great deal of what we wanted. But, there is much more to be done. Even though the ink is barely dry from the President's signature on the law, at AARP, we're gearing up to make 2004 a big year for making sure that all Americans have affordable access to the prescription drugs they need. Today, we would like to outline our next steps toward accomplishing that goal.

Containing the soaring cost of prescription drugs and making them more affordable is not just the responsibility of the federal and state governments, or the private sector, or individuals alone…it's everyone's responsibility. All sectors of our society have a role to play, and all must take appropriate steps for prescription drugs to become more affordable.

As part of our 2004 social impact agenda, we are beginning an all-out effort to lower the high cost of prescription drugs with our Prescription Drug Affordability Campaign. This will be an aggressive, fully integrated national campaign, requiring the sustained commitment of people and resources from across AARP, to be carried out in all 50 states (as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), in Congress, and in the courts. We will educate as well as advocate. And, we will provide consumer information and service to our members, further aiding them in their individual efforts to control their own drug costs. Our goal is to make prescription drugs not only be more accessible and affordable for people on Medicare, but for everyone, including the large number of uninsured and under-insured between the ages of 50 and 65.

At the federal level, we will support initiatives designed to lower prices. These include:

  • Authorizing the HHS Secretary to negotiate lower drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries in the event competitive purchasing doesn't work to lower prices. We expect the private purchasers authorized by the bill to achieve discounts, but in the event that experience doesn't bear this out, the Secretary should be able to intervene on behalf of America's seniors.
  • Legalizing the importation of drugs from Canada for individuals — with strict controls to ensure that consumers are ordering only from reputable Canadian pharmacies, and ensuring that FDA has adequate resources.
  • And today, we are calling on the pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to voluntarily limit price increases to no more than the rate of inflation. We will be a watchdog for our members to inform them about drug price increases.

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