R.I. Seniors Pay Far More for Prescription Drugs Than Those in Foreign Countries

Jul 9, 2001
(WARWICK, R.I.)–Congressman Jim Langevin today released a new study he commissioned that compared prescription drug costs for uninsured Rhode Island seniors to the prices of the same drugs in foreign countries.  Langevin also emphasized his support for legislation that would force drug companies to lower the prices they charge for many prescription drugs.

 The study found that Rhode Island seniors pay, on average, 78% more for the most commonly used prescription drugs than seniors in other industrialized nations such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Seniors who rely upon Medicare are forced to spend thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars on medication each year since the government-financed health care program lacks prescription drug coverage.  These prices are expected to triple in coming years.
 
 “I am greatly concerned about the high prices uninsured Rhode Island seniors pay for their prescription drugs compared to prices in other developed nations,” said Congressman Langevin, a member of the U.S. House Prescription Drug Task Force.  “Of the most commonly used prescription drugs, Rhode Islanders pay, on average, 78 percent more than those in other wealthy nations.  We can not allow drug companies to continue escaping responsibility for the inflated prices they charge our senior citizens."

 Langevin commissioned the study, “Prescription Drugs are More Expensive in Rhode Island than in Canada, Europe and Japan,” from the Special Investigations Division of the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform.   The study compares the prices paid by seniors in Rhode Island for the five most popular brand-name prescription drugs used by seniors with the prices paid by purchasers in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom for the same drugs.

 The study examined five prescription drugs with the highest annual sales to seniors in 2000 as identified by the Pennsylvania Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly.  The prices of Prilosec, Prevacid, Celebrex, Zocor and Lipitor were studied and compared for Langevin's report.

 The report concluded that Rhode Island seniors pay far more for prescription drugs than purchasers in other countries -- for some drugs, Rhode Island seniors pay several times the price paid by foreign consumers -- and the price differentials are substantial in dollar terms

Langevin also reiterated his support for H.R. 1400, The Prescription Drug Fairness Act of 2001, which would require pharmaceutical companies to sell their products in the United States at no more than the average price they charge in foreign countries.  Rhode Island seniors would save approximately 40 percent on their prescription drug costs if this legislation were law today.

Failure by the drug companies to comply with the legislation would exclude them from any and all business with the federal government, a substantial buyer of prescription drugs for programs such as those run by the Veterans Administration.

“Pharmaceutical companies have balked at voluntary relief, making it necessary for Congress to step in and ease the heavy financial burden on older Americans,” added Langevin.  “This legislation is one way to provide affordable, often life-saving, medication for Rhode Islanders without prescription drug coverage.  It is absurd that our seniors are forced to choose between taking their medication and buying food or paying the rent.”

According to figures releases by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the average senior citizen will spend $1,750 on prescription drugs this year; almost seven million seniors will spend more than $3,000.  CBO also estimates that spending on prescription drugs will increase by 15 percent this year.

“While the issue of affordable prescription drugs dominated the last campaign season, it seems to have faded with the closing of the polls,” added Langevin.  “Congress must act to provide affordable prescription drugs for older Rhode Islanders.”

Langevin was joined by a number of elected officials from the Silver Lake area.

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A complete copy of the Prescription Drug Study is available on Congressman Langevin’s web site at <https://www.house.gov/langevin>