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Congress should negotiate Medicare prescription drug costs

Monday, Feb. 14, 2005

Congress should negotiate Medicare prescription drug costs
As Americans are asked to pay higher share of healthcare bill, consumers, taxpayers must know about drug prices, safety, effectiveness

(Washington, D.C.) – Below is a letter Consumers Union sent to members of the House and Senate regarding the revised $720 billion estimate for the Medicare drug benefit, urging Congress to negotiate the prices it pays for prescription medicines under Medicare.
Consumers Union’s free public-education project, www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org is a powerful tool for consumers and taxpayers now struggling with skyrocketing prescription drug costs by giving them unbiased information on the price, safety and comparative effectiveness of medicines. Consumers Union strongly believes that consumers must have such information to help them shop more wisely for healthcare as they are asked to pay a larger piece of the healthcare bill.
Letter below:
Dear Senator/Representative:
As Congress considers revised estimates putting the cost of the Medicare drug benefit at $720 billion over the next decade, we urge you to consider how that expenditure can produce the maximum health benefit, and perhaps even be reduced. We continue to believe that Congress should confer on the federal government the full power to negotiate the prices it will pay for prescription medicines on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Restraining excessive drug prices and costs will provide Medicare beneficiaries with increased access to medicines over time, with enormous public health benefits.
We also believe that better information in the marketplace on the price, safety and comparative effectiveness of drugs can offer some relief to consumers and taxpayers as the nation battles the soaring cost of prescription drugs. We have entered this arena with the recent launch of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, a free public education project and Web site designed to put unbiased evidence-based information on prescription drugs and their costs directly into consumers’ hands. We strongly believe that consumers must have such information to help them shop more wisely for healthcare as they are asked to pay a larger piece of the healthcare bill. Our project complements other new programs as various payers – employers, health plans, state governments, and Medicare – are increasingly providing information and incentives to steer people to effective, lower cost drugs, while promoting the use of rigorous medical evidence-based reviews.
Additionally, our free reports, which are based on the scientific evidence reviewed by the Oregon Health and Science University-based Drug Effectiveness Review Project, identify side effects and potential drug safety concerns from data currently available. This important safety information could be broadened and enhanced by requiring all clinical drug trials to be transparent, and their results publicly available, to researchers, physicians and consumers. Consumers Union’s advocacy effort, Prescription for Change, is working on this effort.
Please find the attached articles on the CR Best Buy Drugs project from Consumer Reports and The Washington Post. We hope you will share this important information with your constituents by letting them know about www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org. The reports are free and can be downloaded. The site currently has reports on cholesterol drugs, arthritis-pain medicines, acid reflux/heartburn treatment and antidepressants. Over the next two years we will evaluate 20 categories of drugs. The project is made possible by grants from the Engelberg Foundation and the National Library of Medicine.
We would be very pleased to supply you with additional information or to brief you on the project.
Gail Shearer
Project Director
Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs
(202) 462-6262
For more information contact: Susan Herold, 202-462-6262