Weiner-Maloney Report Hits High Cost Of Rx Drugs In US
We touched briefly on a recent report issued by Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan) and Anthony Weiner (D-Queens/Brooklyn) which shows New York City seniors pay more for their prescription drugs than seniors anywhere else in the world.
Since then, we have received a copy of the report and are going to comment further on its findings.
The lawmakers say, "New York City seniors pay astronomical prices for prescription drugs. And because there’s no Medicare prescription drug benefit, too many seniors are forced to choose between draining their retirement funds or foregoing critical medical treatments."
They also point out that the drug companies that charge seniors exorbitant prices in the U.S. sell the very same drugs for much, much less in Europe, Asia and Canada. Their study shows, they said, that the five most popular drugs on the market—Prevacid, Prilosec, Zucor, Celebrex and Lipitor—cost substantially more in New York City and elsewhere in the U.S. than they do in other developed countries. These five drugs cost anywhere from 106 to 173 percent more in the U.S. than they do anywhere else.
For instance, they say, Prevacid, an ulcer medication manufactured by TAP Pharmaceuticals, costs only $45.02 a month in the United Kingdom, but seniors in New York City who do not have drug coverage must pay $137.54 a month, over three times as much.
Also a monthly supply of Celebrex, an arthritis medication made by Pfizer, costs only $30.60 in France, compared to $86.26 in New York City, almost three times as much.
But Weiner and Maloney point out that all of the medications analysed treat chronic conditions and are taken for months or years at a time. So on a yearly basis, the cost implications for U.S. seniors are even more startling. Seniors pay $1,100 more for Prilosec over a year than in France; over $1,100 more annually for Prevacid than in the United Kingdom, and $800 more for Zocor than in Canada.
The reasons for the sharply higher prices in the U.S. are price discrimination by drug manufacturers, say Maloney and Weiner. There are no drug price controls in the U.S.—there are overseas.
As a result, according to the Congressional Budget Office, "Medicare beneficiaries will spend a total of over $86 billion on prescription drugs in 2002, accounting for over 40 percent of U.S. drug spending." And these costs are rising rapidly.
In addition, seniors’ prescription drug coverage through Medigap plans is inadequate, the cost of this insurance is rising, and insurers are eliminating the coverage, say Weiner and Maloney.
The two lawmakers are sponsors of several bills that would create an affordable, generous and voluntary Medicare prescription drug benefit. However, there are sharp differences in plans presented by Democrats and Republicans in Congress and there appears to be little likelihood that any prescription drug benefit plan for seniors will be approved this year.
WARNING ON W. NILE VIRUS: Citing seniors’ higher risk of serious illness if bitten by a mosquito infected with West Nile virus, Edwin Mendez-Santiago, commissioner of the city Department for the Aging, has urged seniors to take special care to protect themselves this summer against the potentially fatal disease.
Mendez-Santiago said, "The vast majority of mosquitoes are not West Nile carriers and chances of being bitten by an infected insect are slim, but if you get a bite, and if you develop symptoms such as high fever, confusion, muscle weakness, severe headaches, stiff neck or if your eyes become sensitive to light see a doctor immediately."
To help prevent bites, the commissioner said, the Health Department suggests wearing long pants, longsleeved shirts and socks while outdoors from dusk to dawn. That’s when mosquitoes are most active, he noted.
He also urged seniors to consider using an insect repellent such as DEET.
West Nile virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord), he warned. Illness would occur within five to 15 days of being bitten, he said.
For more information about West Nile virus, call the city’s toll-free Information Line at 1-877-WNV-4NYC (1-877-968-4692).
FREE SWIMMING AT ASTORIA PARK.: For the 21st consecutive year, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens and the Parks Department, in cooperation with Community Board. 1, are sponsoring free swimming activities for seniors 55 and over and persons with disabilities at Astoria Pool in Astoria Park.
Activities include swimming lessons, water exercise, ballet and other special activities. classes begin next Wednesday, July 10, and will be held Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Persons interested should call (718) 699-4219.
WARNING: According to an article in the most recent American Auto Club monthly magazine, "drivers 60 years of age and older present a greater danger to themselves than to others on the road." The article says, "The increased fragility of older drivers—not necessarily their crash frequency—accounts for their involvement in fatal collisions."
The article sites a study which shows that not only do seniors crash more frequently than other age groups, but their higher injury thresholds also mean they’re more likely to die in a crash.
The article suggests seniors should exercise far more care than others when driving and that a safety restraint mechanisms should be improved by auto manufacturers.