New Report Shows Prices for Top Medicare Part D Drugs Grew by 9.2 Percent in Past Year

Report Shows Part D Drug Prices Grew Almost 4 Times Faster than Inflation as Senate Sustains Filibuster on Bill Allowing Medicare to Bargain for Cheaper Prices

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2007 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Contrary to repeated assertions by the Bush Administration that the Medicare Part D prescription drug program would bring down pharmaceutical prices, a report released today shows quite the opposite has occurred. According to the report, Part D prices of the most-prescribed drugs for seniors rose steeply last year.

The report, released by the consumer health organization Families USA on the same day the Senate sustained a filibuster on a bill allowing Medicare to bargain for cheaper prices, examined Part D drug plan price changes from April 2006 to April 2007 for the top 15 drugs prescribed to seniors, such as Celebrex, Fosamax, and Lipitor.

According to the report, the median Part D drug price increase was 9.2 percent -- almost four times the latest inflation rate (2.4 percent) and almost three times the increase in this year's cost-of-living adjustment in Social Security (3.3 percent). Among the price increases catalogued by the report were the following:

    -- A year's supply of Celebrex (200 mg), an anti-inflammatory drug, rose

       in price from $946.44 to $1,033.32, an increase of 9.2 percent.

    -- Lipitor (10 mg), a cholesterol-lowering drug, rose in price from

       $785.40 to $857.40, also an increase of 9.2 percent.

    -- The price of Fosamax (70 mg), an osteoporosis treatment, rose from

       $727.92 to $806.16, an increase of 10.7 percent.

    -- Prevacid (30 mg), a gastrointestinal agent, jumped in price from

       $1,395.48 to $1,547.40, an increase of 10.9 percent.

    -- The price of Lexapro (10 mg), a drug used to treat depression, rose

       from $706.20 to $812.16, an increase of 15.0 percent.

"Contrary to promises made by the Administration, Medicare Part D drug prices skyrocketed last year," said Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA. "Those fast-rising prices are making drugs increasingly unaffordable for seniors and are fleecing America's taxpayers."

The Families USA report examined changes in the lowest drug prices charged to seniors among the plans offered by the five largest insurers: UnitedHealthcare, Humana, WellPoint/Unicare, Member Health, and WellCare. Together these plans enrolled almost two-thirds (65 percent) of all Part D beneficiaries. Since these plans have the largest enrollment, they are in the best position, among Part D plans, to secure optimal prices from the pharmaceutical companies.

All of the prices catalogued in the Families USA report were the prices reported to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) by the insurers.

"The Senate's vote today will prevent Medicare from bargaining for cheaper drugs, and it will hit seniors and taxpayers hard in the pocketbook," Pollack said. "But growing majorities in both houses of Congress to change the law augurs well for a future, successful lifting of the current bargaining restrictions."

"As this report shows, the cost of drugs most commonly used by seniors in Part D are still increasing much faster than inflation. They're taking bigger bites than ever out of Social Security checks and life savings. Meanwhile, drug industry profits have soared as they take advantage of legislation that unfairly tilted toward company bottom lines, not seniors' health," Senator Edward Kennedy said. "It's time for Congress to put the needs of seniors first. Yet what did our Republican colleagues do today? They blocked us from debating a bill to allow Medicare to negotiate to get better drug prices. Time and again, the interests of the drug industry are put ahead of the interests of the elderly."

"Seniors are paying too much for their prescription drugs, and this report confirms that," said Senator Debbie Stabenow. "Only special interest groups benefit from the current policy, and I am disappointed that a minority of the Senate blocked our efforts to change that policy this morning. The fight to let Medicare negotiate lower drugs will continue -- it is in the best interest of seniors, families, and taxpayers."

"I'm confident that prescription drugs would be more affordable if our seniors, through Medicare, had a seat at the bargaining table. Instead, they have been shut out of the process allowing prices to soar exponentially," said Senator Mark Pryor. "With today's defeat, President Bush and his Republican colleagues in the Senate have shown seniors and taxpayers that they don't want to make Medicare more cost-effective. My message to them is that this fight isn't over. We will get this bill passed and provide seniors with more affordable life-saving drugs."

"Banning the government from negotiating with the prescription drug companies imposes substantial and unnecessary costs on America's taxpayers and seniors, who -- as Families USA clearly reveals in their report today -- are paying excessive prices for prescription medications," said Senator Amy Klobuchar. "Yet, this administration and its Secretary of Health and Human Services have shown absolutely no interest in the potential of negotiation. It is time to lift this useless ban and step up to the bargaining table."

Note to editors: The above-mentioned report is available on the Families USA Web site at http://www.familiesusa.org. In addition, in January 2007, Families USA issued a report demonstrating that Medicare Part D drug plan prices were 58 percent higher than the prices charged to veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This report, titled No Bargain: Medicare Drug Plans Deliver High Prices, is also available on Families USA's Web site.

Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

CONTACT: Dave Lemmon, Geraldine Henrich-Koenis or Bob Meissner of FamiliesUSA, +1-202-628-3030

Web site: http://www.familiesusa.org/

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A United Business Media Company

Posted: April 2007


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