Rising prescription drug prices are forcing some Hawaii seniors to forgo needed medications

AARP found the average prices for popular medications rose by more than 300%
Published: Jun. 3, 2022 at 3:28 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 3, 2022 at 6:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the U.S. Senate considers laws to lower the costs of prescription drugs, Hawaii prices are rising far faster than inflation.

AARP tracked retail prices of prescription drugs since 2006 and found the average prices for popular medications rose by more than 300 percent, and it’s forcing seniors on limited incomes to ration their pills or choose between medication and food or rent.

AARP wants lawmakers to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and cap co-pays.

Masato Inaba, 80, believes seniors with limited incomes are paying the price for drug makers’ greed.

His co-pay for diabetes pills costs $600 a month.

“It was between my shopping, redoing my income for what I can do for food. Versus this medication. I just said put it back. I couldn’t afford it,” said Inaba, who was referred to a foundation that helped him pay for the medication.

Inaba also had bladder cancer and had to undergo treatments that cost more than $120,000.

“Everything is so expensive. We’re paying I think, double or triple or whatever other countries are paying. And it’s not right,” he said.

Insurance covered most of the costs but Inaba still paid $13,000 out of pocket ― money he believes most kupuna do not have.

“They’ll probably not go to the hospital and not see a doctor because they couldn’t afford it,” he said.

“Kupuna are being forced to choose between medications they need to survive, and food and rent,” said Craig Gima, spokesman of AARP, who adds that he declined a prediabetes drug that was prescribed to him because it would have cost him $4,000 a year.

He believes drug price reform not only benefits seniors, but taxpayers who contribute hundreds of billions of dollars a year to Medicare.

“There’s a federal law that says Medicare can’t ask for a lower drug price. They are the biggest buyer of drugs in the world,” he said. “But they cannot ask for a bulk discount because you’re buying so much drugs. That law has to change.”

The pharmaceutical industry has argued that lowering prices would reduce the development of new drugs.

Gima says a lot of funding for new research already comes from taxpayers.

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