Beth Finkel

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AARP to NY Pols: Stop Rx Greed

AARP Long Island volunteers urge Senator Anna Kaplan of Great Neck to support AARP’s #StopRxGreed New York State campaign during the association’s statewide day of advocacy in Albany on May 14.

Before New York State’s legislative session ends later this month, Albany can still make a real dent in a serious pocketbook issue for New Yorkers: the high cost of prescription drugs.

Americans pay the highest brand-name drug prices in the world and saw the price of prescription drugs skyrocket four times faster than inflation from 2006 to 2017.

That has to change.

Three bills before the state legislature would help New Yorkers get the medications they need without breaking the bank by:

· Allowing the safe importation of prescription drugs at a far lower price than New Yorkers must now pay (S5682/A7588).

· Forcing pharmaceutical companies to reveal “pay to delay” deals in which they pay to keep lower-priced generic drugs from reaching the market sooner (S5169/A7196).

· Empowering the state attorney general to prosecute drug-makers for price gouging (S141/A6606).

A related bill would prohibit health plans from increasing patients’ costs for a specific drug during the enrollment year (S2849/A2969).

On May 14, about 150 AARP volunteers from Long Island to Buffalo went to the state Capitol for the launch of AARP’s #StopRxGreed campaign in New York and urged their legislators to pass those bills this year.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul voiced the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration to “do everything we can to reel in the exorbitant, unconscionable prices of prescription drugs.”

“It is so much easier to go over to Canada and get the same drug so much cheaper,” Hochul, who lives near the Canadian border in the Buffalo area, told the volunteers. “What the heck is going on in our country?”

Fair question.

The Canadian government estimates U.S. consumers pay twice as much as Canadians for patented prescription drugs and 20 percent more for generics and in some cases 10 times as much for a drug. Some eye-popping examples of price increases: the anaphylactic shock drug epinephrine shot up from $94 for a two-pack of auto-injectors in 2007 to more than $600 today, while the cost of the anti-parasitic drug Daraprim skyrocketed from $13.50 per tablet after an acquisition in August 2015 to $750 a tablet, according to state bill sponsors.

Nationally, nearly 40 percent of voters 50 and over say they may have to cut back on other necessities such as food, fuel, and electricity in order to afford prescription drugs, according to an AARP study which found 39 percent did not fill a prescription including 48 percent of Hispanics and 46 percent of African Americans; 63 percent percent said prescription drug costs are unreasonable.

There is much to do to ensure the state takes a stand against rising prescription drug prices this year. You can help by calling your state legislator at 1-844-254-6882 or going to action.aarp.org/StopRxGreedNY.

With older residents taking an average of 4.5 medications a month and our population aging, the need to cut high drug prices will only increase. There is no time to waste.

Beth Finkel is AARP New York State Director