Spitzer And Aarp Enlist Seniors To Monitor Drug Prices

New York State Attorney General Spitzer and AARP today announced a joint effort to help consumers across the state access the best price for commonly prescribed medications. Attorney General Spitzer said that AARP members have volunteered to be "Rx Watchdogs" and will monitor and report retail drug prices at local pharmacies for his Office's drug price comparison website – >www.NYAGRx.org

Spitzer also announced that his office's most recent statewide survey found that prices for commonly prescribed medications for seniors can often vary by more than $100 per prescription among pharmacies only a few miles apart (See Press Attachment.)

"The escalating cost of prescription drugs is a burden for all New Yorkers, but especially for seniors, the uninsured and those lacking adequate prescription drug coverage." Spitzer said. "By making the prices of common prescription drugs easily accessible on our website, we hope to help consumers comparison shop for the best price and keep their drug costs as low as possible."

Since July 2004, Spitzer's office has completed surveying 740 pharmacies in all 62 counties across the state and increased the number of commonly prescribed drugs surveyed from 25 to 50. New York State law requires each pharmacy to supply its Drug Retail Price List of the 150 most frequently prescribed drugs to consumers upon request. Spitzer's staff has obtained the lists from surveyed pharmacies and has posted the drug prices at www.NYAGRx.org.

"We are delighted with the Attorney General's efforts on drug pricing because they complement our own," said AARP CEO Bill Novelli, who joined the AARP Watchdogs for today's announcement. "AARP has been involved in a prescription drug cost containment campaign that includes legislation, litigation and consumer education," Novelli said.

"With the help of AARP's Rx Watchdogs, we will expand the scope of this website and hope to help more and more consumers bring their drug costs under control." Spitzer said. Since its launch in August 2004, Spitzer's drug price website has received over 2.1 million hits.

The AARP members, who are being recruited from across the state to monitor drug prices at their local pharmacies and report these prices to the Attorney General's office, will help expose current price disparities.

As part of its campaign to address rising prescription drug costs, AARP conducted a thorough review of drug pricing for the past four years. This year, it is tracking the prices of the most commonly used drugs for those age 50 and above and has found that current cost increases continue to outpace inflation.

According to a new AARP report released today, from September 2003 to September 2004, the average price for the 197 most widely prescribed brand name drugs rose 7.4 percent.

The AARP "Rx Watchdog Report" is a regularly published newsletter that focuses on the factors, trends and practices affecting drug pricing. It is available at www.aarp.org.

Rosemarie Cola, a 71-year-old woman from Jackson Heights, is feeling pinched by rising drug costs. She decided to become an AARP Watchdog to help others with the same problem. "I take 21 pills a day. My husband and I spend over $5,000 a year out of our own pockets for prescription drugs. It's not easy to make ends meet when drug prices keep going up. We want to make prices more transparent to help people with similar concerns."

"The AG's most recent survey found that the cost of getting a prescription filled in this state can vary by up to $100 per prescription," AARP New York State Director Lois Aronstein said. "With the help of the AG's website, New York price lists, and AARP Watchdogs, consumers can get access to more affordable drugs. This project is a testament to the commitment of our members to help older New Yorkers and be a part of the solution," Aronstein said.

The NYAGRx Watchdog prescription drug price project is being handled jointly by staff from the Attorney General's and AARP's New York office and is led by Attorney General's Health Care Bureau Director of Policy and Research Rashmi Vasisht under the supervision of Bureau Chief Joe Baker.

AARP is a nonprofit membership organization and has over 2.5 million members in New York State. To learn more about AARP, visit www.aarp.org.

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