Rx DRUG COSTS: Study Shows Seniors Now Paying Double
Families USA yesterday released a study claiming that older Americans are now paying twice as much for prescription drugs as they did in 1992, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Families USA said that unless national policymakers take action to create a Medicare prescription drug benefit, medicine will become even less affordable for individuals over 65. Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA said, "When [seniors] go to the pharmacy, they pay higher prices for their drugs than anyone, because there's no one bargaining on their behalf." The study, based on data gathered by Medicare, reported that average Americans aged 65 or older pay $1,205 a year for prescription drugs, up from $559 in 1992, and by 2010, that price will rise to $2,810. The study found that prescription drugs now account for approximately 10% of seniors' health care expenditures, and predicts that this number will rise to 13.3% in 2010. "The burden of paying for drugs falls disproportionately" on seniors, the study said, with Americans 65 and older representing 42 cents of every dollar spent on prescription drugs, even though they comprise only 13% of the population and purchase only 34% of all prescriptions. The average senior citizen's prescription cost has risen "dramatically" from $28.50 per prescription in 1992 to $42.30 today, and is projected to increase to $72.94 in 2010. Projections for future drug costs were determined by the Prime Institute, a consulting group at the University of Minnesota.
Increased Spending -- Bane or Boon?
Alan Holmer, president of PhRMA, said that the increase in senior citizens' drug spending is primarily driven by the development of advanced drug treatments. He said, "That's good news for patients, for whom medicines are the most cost-effective form of health care. They keep patients out of the hospitals, off the surgery table, on the job, and in the home." PhRMA spokesperson Jeffrey Trewhitt added that the report's figures "belied the benefits of advanced drugs." He noted that "new heart medications, for instance, may cost a patient $1,200 a year, but that is far less than a $42,000 heart operation" (Toppo, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, (8/1).