Advocates: Drug-price increases hit seniors hard

Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The prices for medicines used by the elderly have been rising more rapidly than their other normal living costs, says a group that advocates federal aid for prescription drugs.

The average price of the top 50 medicines most often prescribed to the elderly rose 6.1 percent last year, Families USA says in a report. The overall inflation rate was 3.4 percent in 2000.

''For seniors living on fixed incomes and often paying for drugs out of pocket, consistent price increases force them to make dangerous, even life-threatening, choices,'' the report said.

A group of drug makers criticized the report, saying it implies all seniors pay the same prices for each drug.

''The retail prices of the same medicine can vary by more than 100 percent within the same city block,'' said Alan F. Holmer, president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

The study examined prices that drug makers suggested pharmacies charge at the counter.

The 50 medicines in the report were ranked by number of prescriptions issued in the Pennsylvania Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly, which the group says is the largest U.S. outpatient prescription drug program for older Americans.

Families USA contends that seniors without prescription drug coverage often pay the suggested prices out of pocket, because they cannot take advantage of deep discounts that private insurers can negotiate.


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