May 9, 2019
AARP Testifies About Prescription Drug Prices at Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee

WASHINGTON—Today Leigh Purvis, Director of Health Services Research in AARP Public Policy Institute, testified on Capitol Hill before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing, “Lowering Prescription Drug Prices: Deconstructing the Drug Supply Chain.”

Below are excerpts of her prepared testimony:

“Prescription drug prices are a high priority for AARP and its members. Older Americans struggle to afford needed and life-saving medications. Medicare Part D enrollees take an average of 4.5 prescriptions per month, and over two-thirds have two or more concurrent chronic illnesses. At the same time, most Medicare beneficiaries live on modest incomes, with an annual median of just over $26,000. One-quarter have less than $15,000 in savings. This is not a population that has the resources to absorb rapidly escalating prescription drug prices and many are facing the very real possibility of having to choose between their medication and other basic needs such as food or housing.”

“It should come as no surprise that our members consistently tell us they cannot afford the medications they need and are forced to make difficult choices as a result.” 

“Today’s high drug prices are part of what appears to be a never-ending race to the top. High-priced specialty drug approvals have exceeded traditional drug approvals since 2010, and the number of people using such drugs is growing. Meanwhile, the research pipeline is full of products like orphan drugs, biologics, and personalized medicines that face little competition and will undoubtedly command even higher prices.”

“We have also seen massive increases in Medicare spending on prescription drugs. Between 2009 and 2017, Medicare Part B drug spending more than doubled from $15.4 billion to $32.0 billion. Total Medicare Part D spending is approaching $150 billion. According to MedPAC, this spending growth has been driven by both higher prices for existing drugs and higher launch prices for new drugs. These escalating costs will eventually affect all of us in the form of higher taxes, cuts to public programs, or both.”

“In response to these calls for action, AARP launched our “Stop Rx Greed” campaign in March. Our campaign calls on state and federal legislators to enact solutions that target the root of this problem—the prices set by drug manufacturers. At the federal level, AARP is focused on three key priorities: 1) increasing generic competition; 2) imposing an out-of-pocket cap for Medicare Part D; and 3) allowing Medicare to negotiate for the price of prescription drugs covered by Part D.”

Full written testimony is available here.

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About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

Media Contact: Greg Phillips, 202-434-2560, gphillips@aarp.org, @AARPMedia