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Analysis: WI Residents Priced Out of Prescription Drug Market

Senior man uses a pill organizer to prepare his medication
MandicJovan/Mediteraneo -

MADISON, Wis. - Prescription drug costs are climbing faster than wages for the average Wisconsin resident. That's according to a new analysis, which is tied to pressure for congressional action.

AARP's latest RX Price Watch Report says between 2015 and 2019, the average annual cost of prescription drugs increased by more than 26%, while the average income for Wisconsinites rose by nearly 14%.

AARP Wisconsin's Advocacy Director Lisa Lamkins said it's becoming too difficult for people who need medications to absorb these costs.

"Older Wisconsinites are feeling the pinch of inflation in the grocery stores and at the pump," said Lamkins. "And unfortunately, they're feeling it even more when they go to the pharmacy to pick up their prescription drugs."

AARP and other groups want Congress to give Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices. That approach has surfaced in a House bill, and is a focal point in the Biden administration's budget reconciliation plan.

But opponents, including the pharmaceutical lobby, say it would give the government too much power to set prices, and hamper research and development.

Lamkins argued that drug companies are making profits off innovative work that is largely subsidized by tax dollars.

"New drugs introduced over the past 60 years - most of the important drugs - were developed with the help of research conducted in the public sector, such as universities," said Lamkins.

Looking at specific drugs, the analysis found the annual cost of Victoza, which treats diabetes, rose by more than $3,000 between 2015 and 2020. Lamkins said that isn't helpful to the more than 330,000 Wisconsin residents with diabetes.

Other reforms being floated include penalties for companies that raise their drug prices faster than inflation.

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