By Lily Bohlke, New Hampshire News Connection

CONCORD -- Prescription drugs in the U.S. cost more than 2.5 times more than those in other countries, and groups such as AARP are urging Congress to allow Medicare negotiations, and to put a cap on what Medicare beneficiaries pay out of pocket.

A study performed by Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration shows that allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices could save consumers $16 billion annually.

Todd Fahey, state director of AARP New Hampshire, said such solutions would permit a fair profit for the pharmaceutical industry while also making sure Americans get the medications they need.

"Particularly with older folks, and particularly in places like New Hampshire with an aging population, sometimes people must choose between paying for food or rent or buying medications," said Fahey.

The budget-reconciliation bill before Congress allows Medicare negotiations, although opponents argued it would limit people's access to medications.

Fahey pointed out it actually would increase access, by making prescription drugs more affordable.

In 2020, the price of hundreds of brand-name medications rose more than twice as fast as inflation.

Megan O'Reilly, vice president of government affairs for federal health and family at AARP, added the federal government is the largest purchaser of prescriptions, yet without negotiating power, drug companies are free to set their own prices.

"The average person on Medicare is taking four to five prescription drugs on a monthly basis," said O'Reilly. "It really is something that is top of mind for older Americans."

More than four in five adults 65 or older regularly take prescription medication. An AARP survey of registered voters of all ages found more than 85 percent support allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, and more than three-quarters of respondents supported putting a cap on how much people are asked to pay for their medications.

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