Consumer Reports Deputy Editor of Special Projects Lisa Gill makes a point during
Thursday’s Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, at which she was a witness.

Twelve percent of respondents to a 2018 “Consumer Reports” survey said they delayed retirement because of increasing prescription drug costs, the media brand’s deputy editor of special projects said Thursday as the Senate Special Committee on Aging concluded two days of hearings on the topic of drug prices.

A 2016 survey by the brand, Deputy Editor of Special Projects Lisa Gill added, found that one-third of respondents aged 65 or more years had experienced drug cost hikes in the previous 12 months and paid an average of $53 more for at least one of their drugs, and prices on other drugs may have increased as well.

“More broadly speaking, we know that when Americans face higher drug costs, even just a few dollars at the pharmacy counter can mean changes to their household spending,” she said.

Many older adults delay retirement or tap into retirement funds specifically due to drug costs, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), committee chairman, and other hearing witnesses said on Thursday. Both Collins and the ranking member of the committee, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), said they have introduced legislation to address various issues related to drug costs.

Hearing witness Pooja Babbrah, practice lead for Point-of-Care Partners, told committee members that real-time pharmacy benefit check, a transaction standard being developed by the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, could be part of the solution. She described the NCPDP as “the preeminent American National Standards Institute-accredited standards development organization for prescription transactions in the ambulatory, long-term care and post-acute care settings.”

A senior community resident who spent part of his career working as a pharmaceutical sales representative told committee members that “outrageous” drug costs now make him embarrassed to tell his fellow residents about his past work experience.

“One month into retirement, I underwent a quadruple cardiac bypass operation — a surgery that saved my life. However, the surgery, as well as my diabetes and cardiac conditions, left me taking seven different drugs each day,” Sheldon Armus, 71, a resident of a senior community in Boynton Beach, FL, said Wednesday. “All of these drugs keep me alive, and I’m very thankful for their existence. However, they also have proven to be a real financial burden.”

Even with Medicare Part D, “it is still too much,” said Armus, a constituent of Sens. Mark Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL), committee members.

“The issue starts at the top with high list prices set by drug companies, but it ends at the bottom, with us, patients just trying to continue to live our lives,” he said.

Watch or read more about the hearings on the committee’s website.