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Statement on “Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act of 1999”

Feb. 10, 1999

Statement on “Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act of 1999”

Badly Needed Drug Price Relief for Medicare Beneficiaries

Public Citizen welcomes the reintroduction of the “Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act of 1999,” co-sponsored by Reps. Thomas Allen (D-Maine), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and others.

“This landmark legislation addresses one of the greatest inequities in the U.S. health care system: the heinous price-gouging that forces Medicare recipients to pay outrageously high prices for prescription drugs,” stated Sidney M. Wolfe, M.D., Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.

The “Prescription Drug Fairness for Seniors Act of 1999” levels the drug-price playing field for Medicare recipients by allowing them to pay for their prescriptions based on the lowest price available to federal agencies.

Currently, the Medicare program and its beneficiaries pay twice as much for prescription drugs as the Veterans’ Administration and the Department of Defense, and almost twice as much as the same drugs cost in Canada and Mexico.

“Outpatient prescription drugs should be a covered benefit under Medicare,” said Wolfe. “But the pharmaceutical industry has long opposed Medicare coverage because they want to keep price controls out of their most lucrative market, since one-third of drugs prescribed in the U.S. today are for people over 65. But their double-digit profits – more than $20 billion for the major manufacturers last year alone – come at too high a price for seniors on fixed incomes who have to make the choice between food and drugs.”???

Brand-name pharmaceutical companies spent $75 million to lobby Congress and the administration in 1997 – more than the companies of any other industry, even Big Tobacco. Their federal campaign contributions in the 1998 election cycle reached nearly $10 million.

“Congress is addicted to drug money,” Wolfe concluded. “It’s time for our elected representatives to stand up to the drug companies and stand up for the seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare instead.”