PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Americans pay between three and four times more for brand-name medications than people in other countries, according to the AARP, but there’s help available for people finding it hard to pay for their prescriptions.
Earlier this week, the AARP released a new report focused on the prices of brand-name prescription drugs broadly used by older Americans between 2006 and 2020.
“What we found is that on average, their prices increased double the inflation rate in 2020,” said Leigh Purvis, the director of health care costs and access at the AARP’s Public Policy Institute.
Purvis said that while the increase was slower than what was seen in previous years, the organization found an alarming trend: affordability.
“We are unfortunately reaching a point where more and more people are going to be unable to afford the prescription drugs that they need, or be forced to make a decision between their prescription drugs and other things,” she added. “Right now, we have some beneficiaries spending as much as $10,000 per year on their prescription drugs.”
If you find yourself in that type of situation, Purvis first suggested talking with your doctor.
“There are often less expensive alternatives you can take that will reduce your costs considerably,” Purvis said.
There are also programs for Medicare recipients, according to Purvis, including Extra Help which she says “can greatly reduce your premiums and your out-of-pocket costs.”
She also said the state of Rhode Island has programs that can “help Medicare beneficiaries in a very personalized way look at their options and try to reduce their costs.”
Additionally, you can reach out to the drug companies themselves for help.
“A lot of them have programs that offer their products at greatly reduced prices or for free if you can meet their eligibility criteria,” Purvis said.
The AARP’s report also found that medication price increases can affect taxpayer-funded programs.
“Your taxes are going towards programs that pay for prescription drugs,” Purvis explained. “The reality is absolutely everyone is affected by high prescription drug prices, regardless of whether they’re taking one themselves.”
Purvis said there’s currently nothing in the U.S. health care system that prevents drug companies from setting high prices or increasing costs at any given time. She did, however, say there are solutions that the AARP supports.
“Allowing Medicare to negotiate on behalf of its beneficiaries is something it’s prevented from doing right now,” Purvis said. “Another really important solution is capping out-of-pocket caps for Medicare Part D, which pays for prescription drugs you put up at the pharmacy.”