Poll Shows Americans Putting Health at Risk to Cope with High Prescription Drug Prices

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A recent poll shows Americans are putting their health at risk in various ways to cope with exorbitant prescription drug prices. RxRights, a group concerned with access to affordable medicine, says consumers need swift relief.

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“We’re long overdue for legislation that facilitates personal importation of safe, affordable medicine. Public health is at stake,” says Graczyk.

A September Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs poll found that the high cost of medicine compels Americans to take unnecessary health risks and forces families to make impossible choices, such as having to decide whether to buy medication or groceries.

Generic drugs have long provided an alternative for cash-strapped consumers. But a recent analysis published by the Drug Channels Institute found that half of all generic drugs rose in price over the past year—one as much as 1700 percent. This has prompted an investigation by Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD). Their inquiry hones in on 10 specific drugs that have had considerable price spikes.

“This bipartisan and bicameral scrutiny is a positive step and will uncover important answers,” says Lee Graczyk, lead organizer for RxRights, a consumer group concerned with the high price of U.S. prescription drugs. “But the truth is that change resulting from this inquiry will take time to implement. That doesn’t help consumers who are struggling right now. They need swift action to bring relief.”

According to the Commonwealth Fund, 50 million Americans skipped filling a prescription because of high U.S. costs in 2012. Each year, the number of Americans skipping doses or going without their needed medications is rising.

Graczyk suggests that personal importation is an avenue for immediate relief. He says 5 million Americans each year already rely on importation to access the medications they need at prices they can afford. For years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permitted the importation of prescription drugs for personal use, but Graczyk says their recent actions jeopardize this lifeline to affordable medicine.

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John McCain (R-AZ) recently introduced S.2549, the ‘‘Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2014”. This bill would amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to allow for personal importation from Canada. And it goes even further, requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create rules to enable and facilitate the importation of safe and affordable medicine. For example, the Secretary would be tasked with creating a list of approved Canadian pharmacies that would be available to consumers via the FDA website.

“We’re long overdue for legislation that facilitates personal importation of safe, affordable medicine. Public health is at stake,” says Graczyk. “This is an important issue for candidates this election season. If Americans are not allowed to import their needed medications from elsewhere but they can’t afford the high cost of drugs at home, what are they supposed to do?”

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Lee Graczyk
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