Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Charles Miller, 90, prepares the daily pills his wife will need for the week on January 4, 2020 in Sarasota, Florida. After suffering a stroke and a heart attack, his wife needs approximately ten different medicines daily which need to be carefully monitored. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Charles Miller, 90, prepares the daily pills his wife will need for the week on January 4, 2020 in Sarasota, Florida. After suffering a stroke and a heart attack, his wife needs approximately ten different medicines daily which need to be carefully monitored. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

High Drug Prices Could Result in Premature Deaths of More Than 1.1 Million Seniors in Next Decade: Analysis

"The costs of doing nothing about high drug prices are too high."

Kenny Stancil

More than 1.1 million seniors in the Medicare program could die prematurely over the next decade because they cannot afford the exorbitant prices of prescription medications.

"High prescription drug prices cost lives. Period."
—David Mitchell, Patients For Affordable Drugs Now

That's according to a study released last week by the West Health Policy Center, a nonprofit and nonpartisan policy research group, and Xcenda, the research arm of AmerisourceBergen, a drug distributor.

Researchers expect "cost-related nonadherence" to drug therapy to increase not only unnecessary suffering but also Medicare spending, as deteriorating health conditions drive up preventable expenses by more than $177 billion by 2030. 

Unless drug prices are reduced, the analysis estimated that 112,000 seniors per year could succumb to early death as a result of not being able to afford their medications. In addition, researchers projected that health complications stemming from the unaffordable cost of prescriptions will force Medicare to spend nearly $18 billion annually on avoidable medical expenses.

Prescription drug prices have been soaring, with list prices having increased by 159% from 2007 to 2018. 

West Health noted that if these trends continue, cost-related nonadherence to drug therapy will be "a leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of diabetes, influenza, pneumonia, and kidney disease."

"One of the biggest contributors to poor health, hospital admissions, higher healthcare costs, and preventable death is patients failing to take their medications as prescribed," said Timothy Lash, president of the West Health Policy Center. "Cost-related nonadherence is a significant and growing issue that is a direct result of runaway drug prices and a failure to implement policies and regulations that make drugs more affordable."

The good news is that policy changes can curb the power of Big Pharma, resulting in far fewer avoidable deaths.

Currently, Medicare beneficiaries are required to pay 25% of the list price cost of generic and brand-name medications until they reach their out-of-pocket maximum.

"As drug companies continue to raise list prices," the analysis explained, "patients may experience a significant increase in their coinsurance costs." 

If Medicare were able to directly negotiate with pharmaceutical companies—as described in H.R. 3, The Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which has languished on the desk of Senate Majority Leader Micth McConnell (R-Ky.) since it was passed by House Democrats in December 2019—it would result in dramatically lower prescription drug prices nationwide. 

H.R. 3 is backed by the Patients For Affordable Drugs Now coalition. David Mitchell, a cancer patient and the founder of the group, said last year that the legislative proposal could "help fix our broken system and ensure Americans with private and public insurance get the drugs they need at lower prices."

According to the Council for Informed Drug Spending Analysis (CIDSA), allowing Medicare to negotiate and limit drug price increases could prevent nearly 94,000 deaths per year while also reducing Medicare spending by almost $476 billion by 2030.

Sean Dickson, director of health policy at West Health Policy Center and chair of CIDSA, said that "the costs of doing nothing about high drug prices are too high."

"Especially when policy changes such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices would result in saving millions of lives and billions of dollars," he added.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·


80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo