Prescription drugs cost Kentuckians a lot

Published 7:05 pm Monday, June 3, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

Kentuckians pay a lot for prescription drugs. In fact, residents of the Bluegrass state spend more on prescriptions than anywhere else in the nation except Delaware, according to a new analysis.

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The analysis from The Senior List used data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, GoodRx and the National Conference on State Legislators to estimate how much people spend on prescription drugs in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Delaware topped the list at $2,331.13 per person in average annual prescription drug costs. Kentucky was next at $2,110.64. The only others to hit the $2K mark were Tennessee and D.C.

California residents pay the least for their prescriptions — an average of $1,033.57 per person. That’s less than half of what Kentuckians spend.

That Kentucky is at top of a health care cost category is not all that surprising, since the state is often “at or near the bottom for most health conditions,” according to Kentucky Health News.

The 10 states spending the most on prescriptions appear to be a mix of the poorest in the nation, where more people are unhealthy; and the richest, where people have more money to spend on expensive drugs, KHN speculates.

“Whatever the cause, Americans are spending far more on prescriptions these days than in years past,” according to KHN. “In 2017, the average American spent $1,025 per year on prescriptions, a 1,000% increase over the average $90 (adjusted for inflation) spent in 1960.”

Factors leading to that increase could include aging Baby Boomers and far higher drug prices in the U.S. than elsewhere in the developed world.

Here in Kentucky, it’s clear that many people struggle to afford medical care and prescription drugs. It’s a problem that requires some changes:

We need lower prices one way or another so that people can afford to get the kinds of medical care and drugs that let them go to work, care for their families and give back.

And we need to develop and encourage healthier habits that lead to fewer health needs down the road. We need more Kentuckians talking walks and visiting parks; fewer Kentuckians smoking.

We also need more Kentuckians getting involved in their communities in any of a variety of ways that promote good mental health.

Volunteering, attending church, joining clubs, getting together with friends — all of that and more helps maintain good mental health, an aspect of our overall health that often gets overlooked.

The cost of prescription drugs in Kentucky is no small problem. But we believe it could be overcome. It will just take time, good government decisions and a lot of people making better choices for their own personal health.