WASHINGTON — The soaring price of prescription drugs in the U.S. continues to spark outrage and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are working to address the growing problem.
- Panel urges lawmakers to address rising costs of prescription drugs
- Prices of more than 250 drugs have jumped average of 6 percent
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A panel of five patients who are struggling to keep up with the costs of their medications shared their stories with the Senate Special Committee on Aging on Wednesday. They urged lawmakers to bring them relief.
“I don’t want to deplete a life savings because of the artificially inflated price of drugs," said Sheldon Armus from Boynton Beach, who testified before the committee.
After a quadruple cardiac bypass operation and a diagnosis of diabetes, Armus takes seven different medications to survive.
“I know in some ways its going to limit my lifestyle. I just live on Social Security," he said in an interview with Spectrum News.
Armus is not alone, studies show nearly one in four Americans struggle to pay for their prescriptions.
“Your stories are heartbreaking. The stories of my constituents across New York are heartbreaking, and there seems no end in sight," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), a member of the committee.
So far this year, the prices of more than 250 prescription drugs have jumped an average of six percent, according to analysis from RX Savings Solutions.
“I just don’t get the price increases. It doesn’t make any sense to you why prices would go up like this," said Sen. Rick Scott in an interview with Spectrum News.
Scott and other lawmakers are considering a variety of legislative remedies. One option is requiring drugmakers to set prices no higher than they are in other countries. Another would be capping out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries taking name-brand drugs.
Some lawmakers are looking to combat competitive practices used by some brand name companies to edge out lower-cost generic drugs. Last month, the Trump Administration proposed eliminating rebates from certain Medicare and Medicaid programs.
“I think it’s all these things we’ve got to put on the table, and figure out the things that actually help the consumer," Scott said. "That’s what I care about, how do I help, the people that talked today, how do I make their lives better?"
For now, patients like Sheldon Armus say they'll continue to share their stories in hopes that Congress will cut the cost of his multiple medications.
"I'm very grateful just to be able to contribute some small amount to this problem, and I hope we’ll make a small change in the future," he said.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging will convene again Thursday to hear from an array of health policy experts. The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee will hold a simultaneous hearing Thursday morning on promoting competition to lower Medicare drug prices.