Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Big PhRma Prescription Drug Hikes: Fleecing Oldsters & Costing Youngsters Jobs

The news in the April issue of the AARP Bulletin ('Prescription Drug Costs Doubled in Just 7 Years', p. 4) was sobering to say the least. The article noted that "the average retail cost of many widely used prescription drugs has surpassed $11,000" - this according to a new AARP Public Policy Institute Report. For those who may not know, that amount is roughly three fourths of the annual Social Security retirement benefit  - and half the median income of someone on Medicare.

To put that in firmer perspective, it means that if Uncle John or Gramps doesn't have enough money for his prescription pills and rent (or food) he may have to go back to work. Hence, the next AARP story (p. 10) that oldsters by 2024 will make up 25% of the workforce, while those under 24 will be reduced to 11.3% cannot be good news for the young. It is basically a case of "Peter paying for Paul". In this case the young 24-year old "Peter" will be hard put to find any kind of a decent job so long as Gramps "Paul" needs it more. Blame it on PHRMA!

There is no good reason why the young, heavily indebted now with college loans - a WSJ piece two days ago cited 3 million now in default and another 3.3. million near it - for a total approaching $200b.  But a lot of this is because so much pressure has been put on oldsters of Social security and Medicare age that they just can't afford to stop working.

In the case of the AARP report, it looked at more than 600 "specialty, brand name and generic drugs most widely used by older Americans from 2006 to 2013."  And through 2012, the "average annual price increase for the selected drugs was from 3.6 to 7.6 percent. In 2013 the average increase was 9.4 percent - with brand name drug jumping nearly 13 percent".

This is atrocious to put it mildly. I already noted, too, my own jacked up drug prices including one for an ear infection (antibiotic drops for over $200 for a less than 0,5cc bottle) and another for gout. Then there was the recent gall bladder attack, for which I needed anti-nausea pills, at literally $5 each. Fortunately, I have enough income from S.S. and an immediate annuity to cover these costs, but many oldsters don't and so have to work - staying in the work force longer and depriving youngsters of opportunities.

The AARP report concluded (ibid.):

"The average retail price for a year's supply of the medications more than doubled, from $5,571 in 2006 to $11,341 in 2013."

Note also, for the bulk of this interval there were either minimal or zero increases to the cost of living allowance (COLA) for Social Security. That effectively meant a cut in benefits, though for sure the corporate media (which have a lot of PhRMA CEOs sitting on their interlocking directorates) won't put it that way.

Meanwhile, the spike in specialty prescription drugs was even greater, at least 18 times more for comparative brand name drugs relative to costs in 2006, and a whopping 189 times than for a comparable generic drug relative to 2006.

PhRmA, of course, denies the obvious but what would you expect? It claims (ibid) the drug prices have been a "consistent share of overall care spending".. What? When you include dogs, sick ponies and snakes?

The AARP Chief Public Policy Officer, Debra Whitman (who I choose to believe) asserts:

"If these trends continue, more and more Americans will simply be unable to afford the medications that they need to get and stay healthy."

Or....they will take jobs that the young could use to pay for them.

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