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Demanding Lower Prescription Drug Prices

AARP is calling on Congress to protect seniors and all taxpayers from price gouging by big drug companies. There is no reason Americans should continue to pay among the highest prescription drug prices in the world.

Last year AARP successfully kept drug company lobbyists from breaking a deal to close the Medicare Part D doughnut hole a year early, which would lower drug costs for seniors. AARP also supports the Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples (CREATES) Act, which would prevent pharmaceutical firms from delaying entry of affordable generic drugs in the marketplace.

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Challenges Ahead

The simple answer to why drug prices are so expensive is because no one is stopping pharmaceutical companies from charging such high prices. The United States allows drugmakers to set their own prices with no transparency. And pharmaceutical firms, which spend billions of dollars on marketing and lobbying, are publicly owned and concerned about their bottom lines. They often focus on drugs that will bring in the most profit, and drug companies are among the most profitable public businesses in America.

Other contributing factors include pharmaceutical companies extending patents so they have longer monopolies, doctors writing prescriptions for medicines familiar to them — thanks to the concerted marketing by drugmakers to health care professionals — and the inability of Medicare to negotiate prices.

Skyrocketing prices are pushing important prescription drugs out of reach for the older Americans who need them. People with cancer, asthma and diabetes are having trouble affording life-saving medications.

In addition, costly prescription drugs could lead to higher health insurance premiums, deductibles and cost-sharing for all Americans. High prices also increase costs for taxpayer-funded programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. This translates into higher taxes and cuts to public programs that affect all Americans.

AARP Guiding Principles

As you consider candidates, keep in mind AARP’s guiding principles on prescription drug prices:

  • Medicare should be allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices, which it is now prohibited by law from doing. The Secretary of Health and Human Services should be authorized to allow Medicare to use the bargaining power of its 60 million beneficiaries to negotiate lower prices, particularly for high-priced brand-name drugs.
  • Allow the importation of drugs. Americans pay the highest brand-name drug prices in the world. We should increase competition by allowing for the safe importation of less expensive but equally safe and effective drugs from abroad.
  • Increase price transparency. Drug manufacturers are charging whatever they want for their products with no explanation. This must stop.
  • Speed generic drugs to market. Brand-name drug manufacturers game the system to extend their patents or exploit loopholes to prevent generic drugs from coming to market. We need to end those practices. 

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