AARP is taking on the pharmaceutical industry with blunt language on both the federal and state levels in its Stop Rx Greed campaign.
The push is putting even more pressure on pharma companies with ads showing clips from February’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, at which seven executives testified, and calling for policies that the industry has opposed.
“The uniqueness of our campaign is we advocate strongly on solutions to lower drug prices nationally, but also in individual states,” said John Hishta, SVP of campaigns at AARP. “Success for us means, for instance, two of the major federal initiatives we’re behind, that deal with bringing more competition and allowing generics to come to market sooner, have passed a major committee in the House. We’re making progress in individual states, too, where we’re starting to see a lot of legislation moving.”
States such as Florida and Maryland have advanced legislation addressing drug prices. Florida is pushing to allow drugs to be imported from Canada, while Marlyand passed a bill forming a state drug-price review board that can cap costs of expensive drugs.
According to Georgetown University’s Center on an Aging Society, people between 50 and 64 years of age spend an average of $237 out-of-pocket on drugs annually. As they get older, that average out-of-pocket cost increases to $456 for ages 65 to 79 and $530 for 80 and older.
Before launching the campaign, AARP surveyed likely voters age 50 and older. Seventy-two percent said they are concerned about the cost of their medications, and 63% said the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable.
“Overall, there is a lot of momentum,” Hishta said. “We recognize the fact that we’re going to be in this for the long haul, and no one solution is going to fix the problem. Hundreds of thousands of members already have signed petitions and sent emails to members of Congress. There’s a lot of anger out there.”
Those emotions led to AARP’s Stop Rx Greed campaign, which launched last month. The campaign includes nationwide ads that condemn pharma companies for putting profits over people and call on Congress to make changes. The campaign also features personal stories from AARP members who have trouble affording their medicines.
A leader from the organization also testified in an House Oversight Committee hearing in January. AARP’s national volunteer president, Dr. Catherine Alicia Georges, spoke alongside a mother of children with diabetes and three policy and academic experts about solutions to drug costs.
“The timing is right; there’s political will on the part of the leadership of the federal government and state governments around the country,” Hishta said. “Our constituency and American consumers are demanding solutions to this problem. We’re one of the unique organizations that represents 38 million members and advocates for the [age] 50-plus that can lead the way.”