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One issue on the minds of masses of Americans, year after year, is the ever-increasing cost of prescription drugs. Lost among some of the recent major headlines is the news that at the end of 2019, the U.S. House passed H.R. 3 , the Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The Senate now has the opportunity to make this one of the most significant pieces of drug pricing legislation passed in the last 20 years. This law would give Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices, a function that is now exclusively the domain of pharmaceutical companies.

The path to passing this legislation is anything but certain at this time. The White House issued a statement outlining the Trump administration’s opposition to the bill. The statement alleges that drug manufacturers could lose $500 billion to $1 trillion over the next decade, resulting in fewer drugs being researched and produced which could result in poor health outcomes for many citizens.

Those in favor of the bill point to its $2000 annual out-of-pocket cap on prescription costs for Medicare recipients, and its intention to reinvest the savings from the bill into research into cures and new drugs.

H.R. 3 is just the latest attempt to address a decades-long controversy over drug prices. One study of the problem reports that from 2008 to 2016 the average list price for brand-name oral drugs (ones still protected by patents, meaning that less expensive generics cannot be sold) jumped 9 percent per year—five times as fast as the rate of inflation—while injectables shot up 15 percent annually, or eight times as fast as the inflation rate. These  yearly increases tend to affect older Americans the most, since many are on fixed incomes, or in the process of trying to save for retirement. Seniors who have more money invested than younger people do not necessarily have more available cash, which causes some people to actually forego the medications they should be taking, or take less than prescribed.

To further emphasize the critical nature of this problem, Prevention magazine examined 36 of the most widely used drugs on the market, and found that between 2012 and 2018, 44% of them more than doubled in price. Insurance companies are reacting to these increases by either lowering or eliminating co-pays, and increasing deductibles.

What can you do? You can always let your elected officials know that you want the drug market to be more competitive, and definitely more transparent in the way that they set their prices. It is a good idea to include your state legislators in your comments, since many states are working on their own individual bills to lower drug costs. For example, here in Louisiana, Law 119 went into effect Jan. 1. It relates to the coverage of prescription drugs. Insurers are now required to give prescribers a list of five alternative comparable medications if a prescription drug is denied. 

Also, do some comparison shopping.  You may be surprised to find out that the same drug can be priced differently from one pharmacy to another. More than ever before, American consumers are buying their prescription drugs from Canadian pharmacies, which more often than not charge lower prices than American pharmacies. If you decide to purchase your prescriptions online, it is advisable to check the retailer out first: Go to to find out if the online purveyor is reputable and authentic.

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