March 17, 2010

WASHINGTON - Today U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, sent letters to the makers of the twelve most-prescribed drugs in the United States, asking them to explain why Americans pay an average of twice as much for prescription drugs as other industrialized nations.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States spends an average of $878 per person on prescription drugs. The average for other industrialized countries is $446.
"Americans pay, on average, twice as much as people in other industrialized countries," Chairman Kohl states in the letter. "While I firmly believe that drug quality should not be sacrificed for cost, the large discrepancies in the cost of identical drugs cannot be explained by differences in production or manufacturing."
Later today, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) will guest-chair a Special Committee on Aging hearing to examine the rise of prescription drug prices in America and its impact on seniors who participate in the Medicare Part D program. The panel will hear testimony on various topics, including cost-sharing under Part D, how pharmaceutical pricing makes it difficult for Part D plans to negotiate discounts, and policy options for closing the doughnut hole and curbing escalating drug prices.
Witnesses at the hearing will include Dr. Gerard Anderson, the director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management and a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; John Dicken, director of health care for the U.S. Government Accountability Office; Greg Hamilton, an expert with 31 years' experience in the pharmaceutical industry; Willafay McKenna, a Medicare Part D beneficiary; and John Calfee, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
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