PharmacyCheckerBlog has reported on the potential effects of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with respect to drug prices and access to medication. Our friends at RxRights.org provide an excellent discussion of this topic as it applies to seniors on Medicare Part D, and more specifically how personal drug importation will remain an important channel to medicine for those slipping through the cracks. Read their post here.Tagged with: Medicare, Obamacare, seniors
A new report from Reuters suggests that pricing pressures resulting from Obamacare may close U.S. and international prescription drug price disparities – with U.S. prices more than double those of other high-income countries – within three to five years. As good as that could be, it’s a long way away for Americans who currently struggle with drug prices. With tens of millions going without meds due to cost, the problem is more urgent than ever.
U.S. brand-name drug prices continue their vigorous rise, in stark contrast to international price declines. Brand-name U.S. drug prices rose 11% in 2011, almost triple the 3% inflation rate. Meanwhile, prices in Canada stayed the same, and actually dropped in France and Switzerland by 3 and 4 percent, respectively.
Reuters politely explains this gap:
“Companies like Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca have grown dependent on higher U.S. prices to generate profits as generic rivals to their best-selling medicines enter the world market, Europe’s government-run health plans clamp down on spending and sales growth in emerging markets stutters.”
Perhaps these price increases explain the 50 million Americans between the ages 19-64 and the 20% of Medicare enrollees who do not fill a prescription due to cost each year.
Look at the price of Januvia, a drug mentioned in the Reuters article. Its wholesale price is 75% higher in the U.S. than in Austria. Our own research shows the price gap at the retail level. The price at a local pharmacy for 90 pills is $978. It costs only $375 online from a verified Canadian pharmacy. That’s 62% cheaper.
Hopefully, the Affordable Care Act will lead to reduced drug prices domestically, but that will take some time. Until then international online pharmacies will remain a lifeline for Americans.Tagged with: AstraZeneca, Januvia, Obamacare, Pfizer
50 Million Americans, Ages 19-64, Forgo Meds in 2012 Due to Cost; 37% of Seniors Concerned About Drug Prices
The number of Americans not taking medication due to high drug prices – a public health crisis – has increased dramatically over the past decade. Last year, drug prices deterred 50 million Americans ages 19-64 from filling a prescription, a 28% increase since 2003 and 4% increase since 2010, according to the Commonwealth Fund’s 2012 Biennial Health Insurance Survey. The survey measures gaps in medical care due to cost, such as forgone doctors’ visits, medical tests, specialist care, and prescription medications. The prescription-use data for 2012 was derived from answers to the following question: In the last 12 months, was there any time when you did not fill a prescription for medicine because of the cost? This fifty million – a staggering figure – does not even include seniors or children who also did not fill a prescription due to cost.
Not surprisingly, the problems for the uninsured are much greater, especially for those with chronic conditions. Sixty percent of uninsured Americans with a chronic condition skipped taking medication in 2012 due to cost, compared to 14% of insured Americans. Overall, the figure was 28%; that’s 18 million out of sixty-six million adults with hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, emphysema, lung disease, or heart disease who reported skipping medication.
As far as seniors skipping meds goes, a recent Walgreens survey may have some answers. It found that 37% of Medicare enrollees are concerned about their drug costs and 20% delay filling prescriptions or skip doses to manage costs. That’s almost an additional eight million (using U.S. Census data for 2011) Americans not adhering to prescriptions due to high drug prices. Walgreens attributes such dismal numbers to the fact that people are unaware of cost-saving alternatives, such as the fact that co-pays vary among pharmacies and limited knowledge of how Part D prescription plans work.
Other reasons seniors skip medication are because their Part D plans do not cover brand name medications prescribed by their doctors and the “donut hole,” a coverage gap in Medicare drug plans that has fortunately begun to close due to Obamacare .
We’re happy to note that the Commonwealth Fund’s report shows that more insured Americans under Obamacare in the years to come could alleviate medical cost problems for millions of Americans. We’ll explore in a future blog post new data on how Americans are addressing the problem of high drug prices.Tagged with: Commonwealth Fund, Obamacare, walgreens