Report finds San Franciscans pay more
for prescription drugs
By Erica Holt, Bay City News Service
July 11, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Uninsured residents in San Francisco
pay 68 percent more than the federal government pays for 10 commonly
prescribed drugs, according to a report released today by the
non-profit advocacy organization California's Public Interest
San Francisco ranked third out of 35 cities surveyed on prescription
drug prices by researchers for CALPIRG, who obtained price information
from pharmacies by posing as uninsured consumers.
The average price of the 10 drugs CALPIRG surveyed was $85.32
in San Francisco and $81.31 nationally. The federal government
pays an average of $50.71 for the same 10 drugs.
The federal government "negotiates prices for veterans,
employees of federal government and retirees,'' much like a managed
care organization, CALPIRG consumer advocate Emily Rusch said.
Uninsured consumers have no one to negotiate on their behalf and
must pay full price for their medications, she said.
It is "shocking to see the difference," she said.
CALPIRG compared individual prices to federal drug prices because
they are publicly available, according to Rusch.
According to the report, the uninsured in San Francisco also
pay more than twice as much for their medication at local drug
stores as they would pay at a Canadian pharmacy.
The anxiety drug Lexapro, the cholesterol drug Lipitor and the
blood pressure drug Norvasc cost more in San Francisco than in
almost every other U.S. city surveyed, according to CALPIRG.
The report did not include a survey of prices for prescription
drugs paid by private insurance holders or seniors buying drugs
from a new federal government drug purchase program.
According to CALPIRG, spending by Americans on prescription drugs
in 2005 was $251.8 billion, an increase of close to $50 billion
CALPIRG's report attributes higher drug costs to delays in getting
cheaper generic drugs on store shelves and appeals by pharmaceutical
companies to consumers to buy brand name drugs as well as drug
companies approaching physicians directly.
The report calls on the federal government to facilitate the
distribution of generic drugs and to create "buying pools''
for consumers through local agencies or employers to increase
their buying power.
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