More than 126,000 Wisconsinites have signed an AARP petition urging Congress to lower prescription drug prices.

According to GoodRx, an American healthcare company, the average cost of prescription drugs has risen by about 2.5% since the pandemic began. And in January, the prices of more than 800 prescription drugs went up by about 5%.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., speaking at an AARP Wisconsin news conference Thursday, pointed out Americans pay, on average, three times more for prescriptions than patients in other wealthy nations.

“In 2020, one in three Americans saw their out-of-pocket medication costs increase,” Baldwin reported. “That has real consequences, and that needs to change.”

Pharmaceutical companies have said high drug costs allow them to invest in research and development of future medications, but Baldwin argued most of the profit likely goes into marketing, advertising and other non-research initiatives.

In a 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation poll, more than 80% of respondents said they would support allowing the federal government to negotiate prescription costs with the major pharmaceutical companies.

Nancy Cook, a Wauwatosa resident and retired nurse with rheumatoid arthritis, said the out-of-pocket cost for her medication increased from zero dollars in 2021, to more than $140 a month this year.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but on a limited income, it’s a lot,” Cook pointed out. “I simply can’t afford that, and for now I’ve been charging it, but that’s not going to be sustainable much longer.”

Karen Justeson, a Wisconsin resident who takes medication for heart disease and diabetes, said last year, her doctor prescribed her two new brand-name diabetic drugs that yielded excellent results. But the out-of-pocket expenses became too much, forcing her to transition to a lower-cost and less effective alternative with unwanted side effects.

“Lowering prescription drug prices would have a positive impact for me,” Justeson asserted. “It would allow me to be able to take the newer, brand-named medications which optimize my health and life without the pressures of high costs.”

Sen. Baldwin has sponsored several measures to keep prescription drug costs under control, including a new proposal to cap insulin costs, which she said nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016.

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