A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Older Kentuckians demanding lawmakers intervene to regulate high cost of prescription medications

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

AARP members in Kentucky are calling on lawmakers to stop price-gouging by pharmaceutical companies.

New surveys from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and AARP show nearly three-quarters of Americans over age 50 worry about the rising cost of prescription drugs. Of those surveyed, 80% said they regularly take at least one prescription drug – yet nearly half said they either delayed or did not get a prescription filled because they couldn’t afford it.

In 2017, women and uninsured adults were the groups of people most likely to not take their medications as prescribed due to cost, according to the CDC. (Photo from @kayp/Twenty20, via PNS)

Charlotte Whittaker, AARP Kentucky’s volunteer state president, says people are being forced to make hard choices in order to stay healthy.

“It’s almost a crisis because, you know, the average person on Medicare D are on 4.5 drugs per month,” says Whittaker. “You know, these people are having to make decisions daily. Do I take my medicine? Do I eat? Do I pay my light bill? Because there’s not a whole lot left when you’re only drawing $26,000 a year.”

There’s been a recent outcry over the astronomical cost of insulin, which has led in some cases to rationing. Kentuckians with diabetes have demanded state and federal lawmakers take action.

Pharmaceutical companies spent more than $6 billion marketing drugs to consumers in 2017. AARP says Americans, especially seniors, are done footing the bill for drug marketing and lobbyists.

Whittaker says the group wants Congress to pass legislation allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, and make it easier for lower-priced generic drugs to come on the market.

“We just want some changes,” says Whittaker. “We have 38 million members, and we have launched a campaign. We have already sent over 100,000 letters to congressmen. And this is just the beginning, folks.”

Whittaker says there are no current federal laws or regulations to keep costs reasonable.

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