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AUSTIN—Uninsured San Antonians are charged 70 percent more for prescription drugs than the best available market prices, according to a survey released today by TexPIRG. The group criticized the failure of Congress to enact adequate reforms, and called on the Texas Legislature to take action to make affordable prescription drugs available to uninsured residents.
“When the 41 million uninsured Americans go it alone at the drug store, they pay the price—often twice as much as the federal government pays when it buys the exact same drugs for federal agencies and programs,” said TexPIRG Advocate Luke Metzger. “Worse, uninsured consumers are charged up to 6 times more for prescription drugs purchased from an American pharmacy than they would pay for the exact same prescription at a Canadian pharmacy,” he continued.
Last summer, TexPIRG joined with other state PIRGs to survey nearly 500 pharmacies in 19 states and Washington, DC in order to determine how much more uninsured consumers pay for 12 commonly prescribed medications than the federal government--one of the pharmaceutical industry’s “most favored” customers. While many previous studies have focused on drugs commonly prescribed to senior citizens, TexPIRG’s study examined the prices consumers pay for a range of prescription drugs widely used by Americans under 65—from an antibiotic used to treat temporary acute infections, to a long-term medication used to reduce the risk of heart attack.
Among the key findings of the report were the following:
- Uninsured Americans pay 78 percent more on average for 12 common prescription medications than the federal government. The price differences ranged from 41 percent more for Ambien to 162 percent more for Synthroid. Uninsured consumers in San Antonio are charged 70 percent more than the federal government.
- Many of the drugs featured in the PIRG survey treat chronic conditions—meaning that even small savings add up quickly. An uninsured person regularly taking Allegra to control their allergies, for example, would pay $1120 on average for a year’s supply of Allegra. The government, on the other hand, would pay only $657 for the same quantity of Allegra—a savings of $463.
- Uninsured consumers pay 105 percent more on average at an American pharmacy than at a Canadian pharmacy, more than twice as much for nine common prescription medications. The price differences ranged from 45 percent more for Norvasc to 530 percent more for Premarin. On average, uninsured consumers in San Antonio are charged 95 percent more—more than twice as much—than they would be charged for the same drugs at a Canadian pharmacy.
“HMOS and the federal government use their buying power to negotiate better prices for the drugs they purchase,” continued Metzger. “But with no one bargaining on their behalf, uninsured Americans struggle to pay for needed medical treatment.”
TexPIRG urged Congress to pass the Dorgan-Snowe bill to legalize prescription drug importation from pharmacies in Canada and other countries with regulatory systems similar to the U.S. “Despite the growing popularity of prescription drug importation, Congress has failed to pass bipartisan legislation giving 45 million uninsured Americans access to low-cost prescription drugs,” said TexPIRG’s Metzger.
TexPIRG also urged the Texas legislature to create prescription drug-buying pools that would allow businesses, the government and individuals of all ages to use their combined buying power to negotiate lower drug prices. In the 78th Legislature, state Rep. Richard Raymond and Rep. Solis introduced HB 1545 to create such a program. The bill was estimated to save the budget Texas $145,949,790 over two years. Unfortunately, the bill did not leave committee.
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