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Survey Shows Growing Worry Among 50+ Over Drug Prices

Prescription drug prices are skyrocketing, and older Americans want politicians to do something about it

Rising Drug Prices


Many older adults say cost is a factor in deciding not to fill a prescription.

En español | How worried are older adults about skyrocketing prescription drug prices? Really, really worried. A new survey by AARP of nearly 2,000 adults age 50+ finds the vast majority — 81 percent — think drug prices are too high, and nearly 9 in 10 want politicians to do something about it.

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“The public is making it increasingly clear that profiteering by drug companies at the expense of Americans is unacceptable. People are worried about high drug prices, and many are struggling because they can’t afford their medications,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer.

The survey is the latest in a growing chorus of outrage against unaffordable drug prices not only from patients, but also from doctors, insurers, Congress and presidential candidates.

A recent survey of about 3,000 brand-name prescription drugs found that prices more than doubled for 60 and at least quadrupled for 20 since December 2014, Bloomberg News reported. For those with diabetes, the cost of insulin has tripled in the last decade, outstripping patient annual spending on all other diabetes medications combined, a new analysis showed.

In the AARP survey of 1,834 adults age 50 and older, more than half who reported not filling a prescription in the past two years said cost was a factor. Cost worries were greatest among those in poor health, as well as those with lower incomes and lower education.

Additionally, those who are pre-Medicare — ages 50 to 64 — are struggling more than those 65+ to pay for their prescription drugs, the survey found. A higher proportion report facing difficult decisions when buying prescription drugs, such as delaying or not filling a prescription or taking less medication to make it last longer. More are concerned about being able to afford their medication in the next two years, compared with those 65+.

Among other key findings:

  • 93 percent support allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug costs.
  • 87 percent say it’s important for politicians — especially those running for president — to support efforts to reduce prescription drug costs.
  • 76 percent say the government should be doing more about prescription drug prices, and half believe there should be more regulation to make sure these drugs are safe.
  • 85 percent oppose the efforts of drug companies to delay the availability of lower-cost generic substitutes.
  • 98 percent say it’s important to be able to compare the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs.
  • 84 percent say drug companies should publicly explain how they price their products.

The survey also found that 3 out of 4 adults age 50+ take at least one prescription medication on a regular basis. More than 8 in 10 (86 percent) of those age 65+ regularly take prescription drugs, and 53 percent take four or more regular medications. “We’re talking about millions of people who are impacted by high drug prices every single day,” said LeaMond.

(VIDEO): AARP Drug Savings Tool. How to use AARP's Drug Savings Tool online.