With prescription drug costs continuing to rise faster than inflation, AARP is backing legislation that would allow Americans to buy prescription drugs from foreign countries. Imports are often less expensive than drugs bought in the United States.
See also: Lower-cost drugs from Canada.
The imported-drug issue has been overshadowed by debate over the new health care law, but two U.S. senators — Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) — recently introduced legislation to give consumers access to prescription drugs from other countries.
"It is simply indisputable that Americans pay far too much for prescription drugs, when other countries pay 35 to 55 percent less," Snowe said as she introduced the bill. "When nations institute safe, regulated trade in pharmaceuticals, they see results, as Sweden did when it entered the European system of trade and saw a reduction of 12 to 19 percent in the price of traded drugs."
Many nations negotiate drug prices with manufacturers and can often get lower prices than those set in America.
A recent AARP Rx Price Watch found retail prices for the most popular brand-name drugs increased 8.3 percent in 2009, while the overall rate of inflation fell by 0.3 percent.
Drugmakers say that when the price of generics is taken into account, the price hikes are not nearly so high. Nonetheless, cost remains an issue, particularly for older adults.
"Most of these drugs are not discretionary, they are medically necessary," said AARP Executive Vice President John Rother. "It is absolutely essential that we keep pharmaceuticals affordable."