Press Release by Congresswoman Pelosi

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

San Francisco Seniors Pay Dearly for Prescription Drugs

June 22, 1999

A new study requested by Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) finds senior citizens in San Francisco pay more than twice as much for pharmaceutical drugs as the most favored customers of drug companies. "High drug prices and incomplete insurance coverage place grave burdens on older Americans," Pelosi said. "We must make pharmaceutical drugs more affordable for seniors."

Pelosi released the findings today at the Aquatic Park Senior Center in San Francisco. Prepared by the minority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform, the report concludes that seniors in the 8th Congressional District (most of San Francisco) pay 151% more for commonly used pharmaceuticals than such favored customers as federal agencies.

"Seniors, usually retired and often on fixed incomes, are vulnerable," noted Pelosi. "They rely more heavily on pharmaceutical drugs than any other segment of the population, yet their insurance is often inadequate to cover costs. Medicare must be expanded to cover prescription medicines."

Last year, Pelosi held two Town Hall Meetings on Medicare, where coverage of prescription drugs emerged as a primary issue. Pelosi today announced her cosponsorship of two pieces of legislation: the first (H.R. 1495) extending Medicare coverage to include outpatient prescriptions; and the second (H.R. 664) allowing pharmacies serving seniors to purchase prescriptions at the discounted rate enjoyed by preferred customers.

The new study compares prices charged at San Francisco pharmacies with those offered by drug companies to their "most favored customers." Conclusion: price differentials are far higher for drugs than for other consumer goods; and pharmaceutical manufacturers -- not drug stores -- appear to be responsible for the large gap in prices. The findings of the report are consistent with similar surveys in other Bay Area cities.

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