Advocates for older Americans press U.S. Senate for action on drug prices

Advocates for older Americans press U.S. Senate for action on drug prices
A pharmacist is selecting a drug from a pharmacy display case. Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

By Suzanne Potter
This story was originally published by Public News Service.

WASHINGTON — Groups that fight for older Americans are pressuring Congress to pass prescription drug reform, which has been stalled along with the Biden administration’s Build Back Better legislation.

That bill passed the House but not the Senate. AARP Nevada has just delivered petitions asking for action to Nevada Democratic Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen.

Barry Gold, director of government relations with AARP Nevada, said more than 36,000 Nevadans signed the petition.

“Pharma raised prices on over 800 prescription medicines this year,” said Gold. “If consumer prices had risen as fast as drug prices over the last 15 years, gas would now cost $12 a gallon and milk would be $13.”

A similar nationwide petition has attracted more than 4 million signatures.

The Build Back Better Act, if signed into law, would allow Medicare to negotiate to lower prices, cap out-of-pocket costs on part D for millions, cap monthly insulin costs to $35, and impose fines on drug companies if they raise prices faster than inflation.

73-year-old Martha Neff of Las Vegas suffers from debilitating migraines.

She said Medicare will only pay for a drug that she’s allergic to. And it won’t pay for one prescribed by her neurologist.

That $1,000 a month – but it takes away the pain.

“I’m just gone for like 45 minutes to an hour and I can’t see anything,” said Neff. “So how would you like to be on the road and suddenly get one of these? I have to pull over and I just wait it out? Cause I can’t afford the medicine that will stop this.”

An AARP survey of voters found that 87% support allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.