Nearly a quarter of Americans take prescription drugs. Seniors use an average of four to five medications. That's according to AARP, which is now asking for your help to change laws to make medication affordable for all. It points out this is an issue that affects all ages, including the kupuna who want to be Aging Well.

Millions of Americans use diabetes medication every day. Honolulu resident Emile Sloboda is one of them. It's life or death for him. He even has a medic alert tatttooed on his arm.

Sloboda, who was diagnosed as a diabetic when he was just five-years-old, details his daily routine: "I take one injection a day, which is long acting and stays with me all day, which is another very expensive form of insulin." He also monitors his glucose with a machine he wears, which transmits information to an app on his phone.

At one point, the 45-year-old was paying about a thousand dollars a year out of pocket for insulin. "I'm a father of three children in Hawaii. I don't have a lot of money," he says.

An insurance change also left him without proper medication for half a month. "What did it cost me to have uncontrolled blood sugar for two weeks? We'll find out later on. The damage is long term," he says.

Stories like this have AARP very concerned. Hawaii chapter spokesperson Craig Gima asks rhetorically, "Why are Americans paying the highest price for prescription drugs in the world?"

It wants to change laws with a "Common Sense" campaign. Gima explains one of its suggested fixes. "Medicare is prohibited by law from negotiating with drug companies for bulk. Common sense. They are one of the biggest buyers of drugs. They should be able to negotiate for a lower rate," says Gima.

It also wants to require drug companies to justify price hikes, limit what you pay for drugs if you have Medicare, and make it easier for generic drugs to get to market. More details are here: 

It's asking people of all ages to write to your state and federal politicians if you're concerned about the high price of medications. More on that campaign here: https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/prescription-drugs/. It asks you call AARP as well if you'd like to get involved. 

"Let's make it so people don't have to choose between food, rent, and medicine," says Gima. 

AARP Hawaii says, it's not just sick or older people who pay the price, but taxpayers as well.

Here is a link to AARP's survey of likely voters 50 and older about prescription drug prices: https://www.aarp.org/research/topics/health/info-2019/prescription-drug-survey.html

SIDEBAR:

AARP's advice of what to do if you cannot afford your medication:

  • Let your physician and pharmacist know. They can help you find programs to help you pay for your medication and if cheaper generics or alternatives are available. Your medicine won’t help you if you don’t take it or take it in a lesser dose that recommended because of cost.
  • Ask your pharmacist if it would be cheaper to pay cash for a prescription than paying the insurance co-pay.
  • If you pay out of pocket, shop around. Some stores are less expensive than others for prescriptions. There are smart phone apps that may be able to help you shop as well.
  • If you are on Medicare, consider changing your plan. Medicare plans vary on how they cover prescriptions, and you can change your plan annually. You can get help choosing the right plan for you by contacting Hawaii SHIP. hawaiiship.org