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Study shows prices for drugs for elderly rising fast.

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The cost of medicines used by many older Americans rose faster than the rate of inflation last year, an
advocacy group said Tuesday.

Wholesale prices for 50 prescriptions frequently used by seniors rose by 3.9 percent last year, reported Families USA, an advocacy
group that supports President Clinton's proposal to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare.

Government figures show that the overall inflation rate at the retail level was 2.7 percent last year.

Prices for all prescription drugs jumped 5.8 percent, government figures show.

Families USA zeroed in on medicines most important to seniors to highlight what its officials say is the need for a broad drug
insurance program that will help all elderly Americans -- who are living longer and whose doctors are increasingly treating with drugs -- to deal with soaring prices at the pharmacy window.

In the six-year period from January 1994 to January 2000, prices rose 30 percent on average, according to the group's study, which
will be presented to President Clinton and Democratic congressional leaders at a White House briefing Wednesday.

"This report underscores the importance of protecting seniors from the growing burden of prescription drug prices," said Ron Pollack, president of Families USA.

Drug industry officials said the report exaggerated drug price increases. A government measure of wholesale prices showed that prices for all prescription drugs went up only 1.3 percent, said Jackie Cottrell, spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry group.

According to the Families USA study, the wholesale price for a year's supply of furosemide, a generic used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure, doubled to $57 in January when compared with its price a year before.

The cost of a year's supply of Klor-Con 10, used as a potassium replacement, jumped nearly 44 percent to $286 from $199, the report
said. Yearly price increases for other drugs cited in the report include:
--Glucophage, a diabetes drug, rose to $708 from $661.
--Procardia, a hypertension drug, increased to $901 from $874
--Premarin, used for estrogen replacement, rose to $208 from
$186.

The new report will be used as fodder to bolster Clinton's plan to add drug coverage to Medicare as an option for all Americans age
65 or older. Administration officials say rising drug prices are a problem for all seniors and want a broad plan -- $195 billion over 10 years -- for 39 million Medicare beneficiaries.

They are locked in a heated debate with congressional Republican leaders who believe drug coverage should go to low-income Americans who need it most.

Republicans say there's no reason to give drug
benefits to the millions of Medicare beneficiaries who already have some type of coverage through HMOs or retirement plans.

GOP leaders earlier this month unveiled the outlines of a drug proposal calling for private health plans to offer drug benefits.

Most of the $40 billion they have earmarked for a five-year overhaul of Medicare would go toward the drug plan, GOP lawmakers said.
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