DRUG COSTS: Bill Would Lower Prices for Seniors
U.S. Reps. George Miller (D-Martinez) and Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) are promoting a bill "that would force drug companies to bring their over-the-counter prices in line with the discounted amounts corporate and government buyers pay," the Contra Costa Times reports. The bill follows a recent federal study that found that pharmaceutical companies charge uninsured seniors more than twice what larger consumers, such as HMOs and veterans hospitals, pay. In Contra Costa county, for example, uninsured seniors pay on average 119% more for five commonly purchased drugs, while Alameda County seniors pay 131% more. A similar bill, introduced last February by Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME), gained 108 co-sponsors, but Miller said that "Republican opposition has blocked the bill from getting a hearing." Although seniors comprise only 12% of the national population, they purchase 33% of all prescription drugs -- a proportion Miller characterizes as "senior power." Pharmaceutical companies, however, claim such a bill would stall drug research, attributing the root of seniors' high drug costs to insufficient health coverage. "Instead of focusing on the pharmaceutical industry, we need to address the fact that 35% of seniors in this country lack prescription coverage," Meredith Mayo, spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said (May, Contra Costa Times, 5/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.