"It is fundamentally unfair that drug companies are allowed to use near-monopoly powers to gouge American consumers," charged MaryPIRG director Brad Heavner. "People without drug coverage are being forced to subsidize giant pharmaceutical companies with tremendous profit margins."
Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr., who spoke at a MaryPIRG-organized press conference held at the Sandtown-Winchester Senior Center on October 21, said, "With one million Marylanders lacking insurance coverage, and Americans spending more than $203 billion a year on prescription drugs, it is painfully clear that drug prices are skyrocketing out of control."
Late this summer, MaryPIRG and state PIRGs across the country surveyed nearly 500 pharmacies in 19 states and Washington, DC in order to determine how much more uninsured consumers pay for 12 commonly prescribed medications than the federal government--one of the pharmaceutical industry's "most favored" customers.
Among the report's findings:
Nationally, uninsured Americans pay 78 percent more on average for 12 common prescription medications than the federal government. The price differences ranged from 41 percent more for Ambien to 162 percent more for Synthroid.
Many of the drugs featured in the PIRG survey treat chronic conditions,meaning that even small savings add up quickly. An uninsured person regularly taking Allegra to control their allergies, for example, would pay on average $1,120 for a year's supply of Allegra. The government, on the other hand, would pay only $657 for the same quantity of Allegra--a savings of $463.
At the federal level, the groups involved in the study urged Congress to pass the Dorgan-Snowe bill to legalize prescription drug importation from pharmacies in Canada and other countries with regulatory systems similar to the US.
At the state level, the groups urged the General Assembly to establish a prescription drug buying pool that allows businesses, state agencies and uninsured individuals to use their combined buying power to negotiate lower drug prices. A similar program is currently being implemented in Maine.
This story was published on October 21, 2004.