Drug prices much lower for VA than Part D plans, Families USA finds

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The average drug prices for the top drugs prescribed to seniors enrolled in the Medicare Part D program are nearly 60% higher than the prices paid for the same drugs by the Department of Veterans Affairs, a Families USA study has found.

Some drugs cost 10 times as much, or 1,000% more.

For example, the prices one Part D plan charges for Zocor were 1,066% to 1,229% more than what the VA pays for the same drug, according to the study. Costs for Celebrex and Lipitor were at least 50% higher for Part D enrollees, and in some cases 75% to 80% higher than VA prices, Families USA says.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) have been preparing to introduce legislation that would give Medicare the authority to negotiate lower drug prices from pharmaceutical makers, something the Bush administration has resisted while promoting more private-plan competition.

In a related note, a report released late last week by the Congressional Research Service said repealing a clause of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 to allow the government to negotiate prescription drug prices may not lead to lower costs for beneficiaries.