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Drug Prices for Seniors Rising

More than one third of the 50 most commonly used drugs rose in cost by more than three times the rate of inflation in the past year, according to the nonprofit consumer advocacy group Families USA.

“There simply is no justification for these frequent and fast-rising price increases over time,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, in a statement.

“The drug industry likes to claim that high prices are needed to pay for research and development, but these price increases have much more to do with corporate profits than the research costs for these drugs that occurred many years ago.”

Price Increases
Drugs that increased the most in price 
Jan. 2000 — Jan. 2001 include:

(Abbott Laboratories)
Synthetic Thyroid Agent 22.6%
Treatment of Glaucoma 22.5%
(Bristol-Myers Squibb)
Oral Antidiabetic Agent 15.5%
Estrogen Replacement 12.8%
Loop Diuretic 12.4%

From Jan. 2000 to Jan. 2001, the price for Synthroid, a synthetic thyroid agent, rose 8.5 times faster than inflation, the study found. The price for Alphagan, used to treat glaucoma, rose 8.4 times faster than inflation. The price for Glucophage, used to treat diabetes, rose 5.8 times faster than inflation.

The release of the report coincides with an impending debate in Congress over whether to provide federal coverage for prescription drugs. Prescription drug coverage for seniors was a key issue for many House and Senate races in the 2000 election.

Pollack called on the federal government to help seniors pay for prescription drugs by adding coverage to Medicare.

Industry response

Representatives from pharmaceutical companies said the study did not take into account the improved quality of life that results from these drugs.

“Thanks in large part to breakthrough medicines, seniors are not only living longer, but better,” said Alan F. Holmer, President of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, in a prepared statement responding to the report.

He cited studies that show disability among the elderly is on the decline, and that the number of nursing home residents is falling, even though the number of people 85 and older increased.

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