No quick cure for prescription prices

Prices: Costs may rise 8% in 2018

The cost of pharmaceuticals forces some seniors to choose between paying rent or for the medication.

Dennis Palmer of Silver Creek practically threw his hands up in the air. During a recent trip to an area pharmacy to pick up a generic brand prescription drug, he became frustrated and angered by the cost for a 90-day supply.

Not only was it $55 more than he anticipated, but he also decided it just was not worth it. “I canceled the script,” he said. “I can’t afford it.”

Palmer is not alone. According to the American Association for Retired Persons, there are likely hundreds of thousands of others in the country who are facing the same dilemma. Some may even have to decide whether they will be paying rent or purchasing the life-assisting drugs.

AARP also notes that Americans pay some of the highest costs in the world. “High prescription drug prices affect everyone,” Leigh Purvis, director of health services research for the AARP Public Policy Institute, noted in a recent AARP article on the topic“Even if patients are fortunate enough to have good health care coverage, higher prices translate into higher out-of-pocket costs, premiums and deductibles. And greater spending by taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid are eventually passed along to all Americans in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public programs or both.”

Though tax reform has been a key — yet divisive — issue that continues to take the spotlight in Washington, there seems to be greater common ground for both political parties over the crisis of high prescription-drug prices. During the last election, both presidential candidates voiced concerns regarding the pricing of pharmaceuticals. However, little has been done regarding the issue.

Many in Washington, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are working toward a refined Medicare part D prescription drug program. While the effort lowers the cost for the medicines, it still is an increase in premiums to those who are willing to participate.

In other words, you’re going to pay one way or another.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, has been consistent in his message regarding the dilemma. During his conference call on Tuesday morning, he said the best hopes for lower prices comes from Washington making it uncomfortable for manufacturers as well as the pharmacy management benefit companies.

Reed spoke of recent successes with the drugs for diabetics. He noted over the last five years, insulin prices were out of control. “By bringing sunlight to this situation, for example, we have seen insulin prices stabilize and get off the skyrocketing trajectory that it was on previously,” he said.

That won’t happen fast enough for Palmer, who notes the market in Canada has greater regulations making the cost to the customer less expensive. Besides reaching out to Reed’s office, he also has sent his concerns to Sen. Catharine Young, and the state Department of Health.

“For a number of years, I have been obtaining select pharmaceuticals, by prescription from a mail-order pharmacy,” Palmer wrote to the state. “This was done to avoid the high prices prevalent in the United States.”

According to forecasts, the prescription drug prices could rise in the next year by around 8 percent. But relief could be on the way if Washington and the administration that considers this issue “a priority” decides to turn up the pressure.

“I think there is a time today to highlight how prices are set and by putting sunshine on that process … I think that gives us the best chance to put pressure to bring these costs down,” Reed said. “Stay tuned as we go through this process.”

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.

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