Seniors stand together against Big Pharma and prescription drug-price gouging

Sacramento, CA – Today, AARP California, Social Security Works, the California Alliance of Retired Americans, and California State Retirees gathered at the State Capitol to encourage their members to vote Yes on Proposition 61.

“This is the only proposition AARP has taken a position on,” said Blanca Castro, AARP California Advocacy Manager. “We [AARP] believe very strongly that all people should have access to affordable prescription drugs. Proposition 61 represents an important step in that direction. We have studies through AARP that show older Californians are particularly vulnerable to high drug costs. Not only because millions live on limited incomes, but also because nearly two-thirds take three or more prescriptions on a regular basis.”

In April, AARP released a new survey that found that 81 percent of adults age 50+ “think drug prices are too high and nearly 9 in 10 want politicians to do something about it. The survey is the latest in a growing chorus of outrage against unaffordable drug prices not only from patients, but also from doctors, insurers, Congress and presidential candidates.” In that same survey, more than half of adults 50-64 who did not fill prescriptions in that past year said cost was a factor in their decision to forego medication. 93 percent of those surveyed support allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug costs and 84 percent of those surveyed say drug companies should publicly explain how they price their products.

“Prop. 61 is a simple but innovative policy that will not only stop drug price-gouging in California, but will also set a national conversation,” said Ernie Powell, Organizer and Consultant at Social Security Works. “Senator Bernie Sanders, in LA last weekend, reported that one in ten Californians go without taking any drugs at all because of the cost. That is a real burden on seniors and people as they age.” Social Security Works has been a strong advocate for better prices on prescription drugs.

Elizabeth Pataki, RN, represented the California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) at the press conference. Pataki stated that Prop. 61, “could allow money to come back to the state for medical, public health clinics, elderly, disabled, children, and for mental healthcare and housing.” As an umbrella organization for more than 275 affiliated groups, CARA serves a combined membership of over 950,000 Californians.

“Prop. 61 will benefit our state budget, state retirees and all Californians,” stated Tim Behrens, president of the California State Retirees. “Prop. 61 is the first step towards getting a handle on out of control drug prices. We strongly encourage our 35 million members, their family and friends, and all Californians to vote yes on Prop 61.”

Prescription drug costs are one of the greatest drivers of rising health care costs in the United States. Excessively priced drugs continue to put an unnecessary burden on all Californians, especially retirees.

Prop 61 is a simple measure that allows California to leverage its massive negotiating power to achieve lower drug prices for the most vulnerable Californians. Proposition 61 would require the state of California to negotiate with drug companies for drug prices that are no more than is paid for the same drugs by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA). Unlike Medicare, the DVA negotiates for drug prices on behalf of the millions veterans it serves, and pays on average 20-24 percent less for medications than other government agencies, and up to 40 percent less than Medicare Part D.