The cost of insulin for Medicare recipients in Northwest Oregon is 4.6 times higher than it would be in Australia, according to a report recently released by Northwest Oregon Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici.
The report, produced by the House Oversight and Reform Committee, compares the prices for the 50 most popular name-brand diabetes medications in Northwest Oregon to the same drugs in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.
According to the report, about 20,000 seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries have been diagnosed with diabetes in Oregon’s 1st District, which includes Columbia, Clatsop, Washington, Yamhill counties and part of Multnomah County.
The average Social Security benefit in Oregon is only about $1,400 a month, and nearly one-third of people 65 and older rely on this for most or all of their income, Ruby Haughton-Pitts, state director for AARP Oregon, said in a press release. This income is not enough to afford prescription medications, she said. For example, the annual cost per person for diabetes medication Lantus has gone from $2,907 in 2012 to $4,702 in 2017, Haughton-Pitts said.
The high cost leads some diabetes patients to ration or skip medication, Haughton-Pitts said.
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“No one should have to jeopardize their health or worry about affording food because of exorbitant prices for insulin,” Bonamici said in the press release. “Companies are charging much more for these critical drugs in the U.S. than abroad, hurting seniors and families in Northwest Oregon and across the country.”
The report uses data from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), retail price comparison tool GoodRx and data from public health service pharmacies in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Because neither CMS nor drug manufacturers make pricing data publicly available, the report makes assumptions to estimate Medicare spending, costs and potential savings.
Bonamici is a sponsor of the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which is meant to help lower the cost of prescription drugs by creating an international pricing index to address price disparities. It would also allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices and make those available to insurers that cover people of all ages.
The bill, announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in September, has cleared key committees and is headed for the House floor, according to the Associated Press.
Although curbing drug prices is a goal on both sides of the aisle, President Donald Trump’s administration last week said the plan was “unworkable.” Trump is instead supporting a bipartisan Senate bill, but it’s unclear if and when that bill would go to the Senate floor, according to the Associated Press.