Prescription drug prices on the rise for millions of older Americans

Prices are going up for hundreds of brand-name prescription drugs widely used by older Americans, and the trend shows that if it continues, many will no longer be able to afford the drugs they need.

Many people are already struggling because of the pandemic, so rising drug prices may force some to choose to go without the medications they need.

“I’m supposed to take Trulicity once every seven days. But I found that I can take it maybe once every nine days… But it’s not the best for my blood sugar numbers. But you do it. Why? Because this stuff is expensive,” said Tom Lander of Broward County.

It’s a struggle he has to live with because of the cost of the medication he can’t live without.

“In the month of April, I spent $1,311 on my prescriptions… $1,311 – that’s a little bit over a third of my pension.”

Leigh Purvis, the AARP’s director of health care costs and access, said it’s a trend that has gone on for the past 16 years.

“Our latest Rx Price Watch report found that on average, the prices for widely used brand new prescription drugs are increasing at over double the rate of inflation in 2020,” she said.

“We’re hearing more about trade-offs, people who are saying I can’t afford my prescription drug, I have to pay for my rent.”

She said some people are facing out-of-pocket costs that exceed $10,000 a year.

“Unfortunately, there really is nothing in the U.S. health care system to stop drug manufacturers from setting these high prices and then increasing them anytime they want.”

Victor Claar, Ph.D., an economist at Florida Gulf Coast University, said that doesn’t mean things can’t change.

“Because there are fortunate people like me who have pharmaceutical insurance and don’t pay or know the full sticker price – that drives up the sticker price for everybody,” he said.

“If there was some way to get all Americans – insured or not – to act like they’re paying a bigger share of the overall price, then just like in any other market, that would drive down the price over time.”

Lander said Medicare has helped cut his costs.

“I retired five years ago, had to pay my own insurance. Then I went to Medicare,” he said.

“Last year, in 2020, I put out $2,418 in my prescription drugs. They saved me $31,000.”

If you need help paying for your prescriptions now, look for coupons. Most drug manufacturers have cost-saving programs that can slash the cost of a drug or even get it to you for free. You can also find cost-saving apps, such as GoodRx that can save you money and show you where to get the lowest price. To save even more, go with generics whenever possible.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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