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Coalition of Consumer, Business, Union and Advocacy Groups Call for Increased Rx Affordability and Accessibility

A Final State Budget Must Include Prescription Drug Marketing and Purchasing Reform

ALBANY, N.Y., March 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An unprecedented alliance that includes AARP, NYSUT, BALCONY, CSEA, PEF, Consumers Union, NYPIRG and the Center for Medical Consumers called on state elected officials and leaders to make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible to New Yorkers through marketing and purchasing reform.

Among the proposals supported for inclusion in a final state budget are a prescription drug card, bulk purchasing, and an Rx prescribing educational program known as "academic detailing." AARP's Public Policy Institute report released last week shows drug companies have substantially raised prices on 220 brand name prescription drugs. The Rx Watchdog report found that prices of brand name drugs rose an average of 7.4 percent in 2007 - nearly two and a half times the rate of general inflation.

The measures to create more drug affordability and accessibility would:

-- Create a Prescription Drug Discount Card that would allow those in need regardless of age, to save up to 25% on their prescription drugs.

-- Authorize the Commissioner of the Department of Health to bulk purchase prescription drugs to maximize the state's purchasing power, save taxpayers money, and create more access.

-- Academic Detailing would provide objective research to physicians to encourage more independent prescribing of drugs. The drug industry spends billions of dollars on marketing tactics to persuade doctors to prescribe new, expensive, brand name drugs when older or generic drugs that cost less are equally effective.

"Reforming how prescription drugs are marketed and purchased in this state would provide relief to millions of New Yorkers. Drug prices continue to rise and people continue to struggle to afford the medications they need," stated Luci de Haan, AARP New York Acting State Director. "These state budget proposals are essential for providing all New Yorkers with accessible and affordable prescription drugs."

Alan Lubin Executive Vice President for NYSUT said: "Average working women and men give whatever hard earned raises they receive back to healthcare and insurance companies because of the relentless increase in the costs of healthcare and prescription drugs. Since 2000, inflation has risen 18% but the amount that employees pay toward healthcare has skyrocketed a staggering 84%. We can do better. Through our collective strength, pooling our resources for bulk purchasing of prescription drugs, we can save New Yorkers literally hundreds of millions of dollars each year and reduce the rate of growth of healthcare costs."

Chuck Bell, Programs Director of Consumers Union, said, "Consumers Union strongly supports provisions in the state budget to offer an EPIC discount card to uninsured and financially vulnerable individuals. Currently, the state's 3 million uninsured consumers have to pay full retail price for the medicines they need. Expanding the availability of EPIC discounts for early retirees, uninsured workers and others will help millions of New Yorkers to save money on the drugs they need, at little or no cost to New York State."

Danny Donohue, President of the 265,000 member CSEA - New York's leading union, stated: "CSEA has long supported the idea of New York State and its counties and municipalities pooling their buying power to get the best prices possible on prescription drugs. There are big savings to be gained for the taxpayers of New York and they should be pursued."

Russ Haven, Legislative Counsel for NYPIRG said, "At a time when New Yorkers are getting hammered by spiraling mortgage payments, high property taxes and skyrocketing gasoline prices, the state must use its purchasing power to provide prescription drug price relief for uninsured New Yorkers."

Bruce Ventimiglia, the Chairman of Saratoga Capital Management and BALCONY's Co-Chairman, stated: "This is a win-win solution. Small businesses will support programs that help their employees and create a more vibrant New York business environment. However, they need assurances that the costs of programs they support will not go through the roof."

Ken Brynien, President of PEF, stated: "State employees and retirees struggle with prescription drug costs every day. Although a single co-pay may seem modest, anyone with a chronic illness is likely to need multiple medications and those co-pays add up quickly. Drug companies can charge whatever price they want for a drug, the sky's the limit. It's time to fight back. New York State has strength in numbers. Let's use this opportunity to work together, and use bulk purchasing to save millions of dollars in drug costs."

Jeffrey Lewis, President of the Heinz Family Philanthropies, a supporter of BALCONY, said: "Health care costs continue to ravage state budgets and become, in effect, like the voracious PACman of health care dollars - devouring resources that could be used for other state programs. At a time when no elected official wants to raise taxes, sometimes a fresh look by those who have no vested financial interest in these programs - those who do not profit from which drug is or is not covered - can provide the legislature and the Governor with a fiscal blueprint for the future. The Heinz Family Philanthropies looks forward to assisting the Governor and State Legislature in solving New York's prescription drug crisis as a means of demonstrating to taxpayers how a state, like a corporation, can obtain the best value for each public dollar spent."

Arthur Aaron Levin, Director of the Center for Medical Consumers, stated: "The Department of Health proposal to experiment with so-called academic detailing has great merit. Studies have shown that bringing the evidence about what drugs work most safely and effectively directly to doctors in their practices improves the quality of their prescribing decisions which is good for patients."

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 33 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 39 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands

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