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1 in 3 Alabamians stopped taking their prescription medicine due to high cost

A prescription bottle of white pills spilling on a pile of $100 dollar bills

According to new data from AARP Alabama, one in three Alabamians stopped taking a prescription drug as prescribed due to cost in 2016. 

AARP Alabama released a new set of data Monday on impact of high prescription drug prices on Alabamians, specifically for those living with cancer, pre-diabetes or diabetes and heart disease. 

AARP Alabama State Director Candi Williams said that it is critical that state and federal lawmakers pass new legislation to keep drug prices from rising. 

“While prescription drug prices continue skyrocketing, Americans are being forced to choose between filling life-saving medications or paying rent and buying food,” Williams said in a statement. “So far in 2019, 29 states (including Alabama) have passed 46 new laws to rein in drug prices. It’s critical that state and federal lawmakers continue this momentum to stop Rx greed.”

The data also highlights recent price increases for select prescription drugs commonly used to treat cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Between 2012 and 2017, the retail price of certain prescription drugs nearly doubled. 

The retail price of Revlimid, a drug used to treat cancer, increased from $147,413 per year to $247,496 per year. In Alabama, 539,841 people are living with cancer. 

The cost of Lantus, a form of insulin used to treat diabetes, increased from $2,907 per year to $4,702 per year. There are currently 587,856 people with diabetes or pre-diabetes in Alabama. 

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Another drug that saw a significant increase in cost was Aggrenox, a heart disease medication. The drug price increased from $3,030 per year to $5,930 per year. In Alabama, 206,211 people have heart disease. 

Earlier this year, the Alabama Senate passed a bill to address the high cost of prescription drugs. Senate Bill 73, sponsored by State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), prohibits pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) from restricting pharmacies and pharmacists from disclosing cost information to patients about alternative drugs or other services and costs. This bill also requires PBMs to register with the Department of Insurance.

Williams said that the passing of bills by various states to lower prescription drug prices is encouraging but that high drug costs are a national problem  and that require federal action is equally essential. 

“AARP Alabama has been encouraged by the bipartisan work of our state lawmakers this year to lower prescription drug prices,” Williams said in a statement. “Ultimately, drug costs are a national issue, so federal action is equally essential. We urge the Senate to pass the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act in the fall, when the House is expected to act on its own drug pricing bill.”

The Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (PDPRA) takes a multi-step approach to lowering prescription drug prices, including placing a cap on out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors at $3,100 per year beginning in 2022 and cracking down on drug manufacturers whose price increases outpace inflation. The bill will be considered by the Senate this fall.

 

Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science.

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