Stabenow: Allow Medicare to Negotiate Lower Prescription Drug Prices for Seniors
Families USA report confirms that negotiation allows VA to pay far less for drugs than Medicare, seniors
Seeking ways to trim federal budget deficits, Congress should immediately give the Department of Health and Human Service the same authority wielded by the Department of Veterans Affairs to negotiate prescription drug prices, a move that could trim drug costs as much as 200-500 percent, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said today.
"Fortune 500 companies, the individual states, large pharmacy chains, and even the Veterans Administration can use the bargaining clout of big bulk purchases to get lower drug prices, but HHS is barred from using the strength of its 41 million Medicare recipients," Stabenow said. "We can see the impact of this absurd ban in today's Families USA report. It shows clearly that seniors and the taxpayer will pay more, far more, for prescription drugs, simply because HHS is denied the basic tool of negotiation."
Stabenow introduced legislation earlier this year that seeks to remove the ban.
The Families USA report, "Getting the Best Price: Lessons Learned from the Medicare Discount Card Program," compared a variety of drugs and found that seniors using Medicare drug discount cards would be paying considerably more for 49 of the top-50 most frequently prescribed drugs than the VA does.
The report also looked at the five drugs most frequently prescribed for seniors, and it found that the best price under the Medicare drug discount card is considerably higher than the best VA price. As the report states:
For Plavix (75 mg.), a blood-clot reducing agent that is the most heavily prescribed medication for seniors, the best VA price is $887.16 per year, compared to the best Medicare drug discount price of $1,230.36a difference of $343.20, or 38.7 percent.
For Lipitor (10 mg.), a cholesterol-lowering agent that is the second most heavily prescribed medication, the annual VA price is $498.84, compared to $730.56 under the Medicare discount cardsa difference of $231.72, or 46.5 percent.
For Fosamax (70 mg.), an osteoporosis drug that is the third most heavily prescribed medication for seniors, the annual VA price is $493.32, compared to $650.52 under the Medicare discount cardsa difference of $157.20, or 31.9 percent.
For Norvasc (5 mg.), a high-blood pressure treatment that is the fourth most heavily prescribed medication for seniors, the annual VA price is $301.68, compared to $467.042 under the Medicare discount cardsa difference of $165.36, or 54.8 percent.
For Protonix (40 mg.), a stomach acid blocking agent that is the fifth most heavily prescribed medication for seniors, the annual VA price is $253.32, compared to $827.40 under the Medicare discount cardsa difference of $574.08, or 226.6 percent.
"A big reason why the new Medicare program is so costly is because Congress and the President chose to support the pharmaceutical lobby over the interests of America's seniors and taxpayers," Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said today. "At a time when drug costs continue to skyrocket and the federal budget is in deep deficit, this needs to change."
"Former HHS Secretary Thompson said as he left office that he would have liked to have had the opportunity to negotiate lower drug prices," Stabenow said. "My legislation will ensure that the new HHS secretary has the tools and the authority to make this happen - for our seniors, for the disabled, and for the viability of the Medicare program itself."