AARP lends hand in fight to combat rising drug costs

WASHINGTON: The AARP has joined the fight against rising prescription drug costs for seniors, and has embarked upon an extensive communications push to get its message across.

WASHINGTON: The AARP has joined the fight against rising prescription drug costs for seniors, and has embarked upon an extensive communications push to get its message across.

The organization is addressing what it calls its "number-one priority" in three steps, according to Lisa Davis, communications director: getting involved in litigation, encouraging doctors to recommend generic drugs to patients, and launching a consumer education campaign to teach the AARP's 35 million members to ask doctors about generics.

A recent AARP survey indicated that Americans 45 years and older express confusion about generic drugs.

Although keen on discounts, the AARP's ultimate goal is to get Medicare to cover the cost of prescription drugs for seniors. When asked about the recently launched Together Rx discount card, which allows Medicare enrollees to save a reported 20%-40% on 150 prescribed medicines, Davis reluctantly voiced her support. "We are supportive of the cards, but it is not a substitute for getting prescription drug coverage through Medicare,

she said.

The AARP hopes that by encouraging increased generic drug use, and in turn lowering the total dollars spent on drugs each year, getting a bill passed in which the government covers the costs could be more likely.

The organization will not announce which lawsuits it will get involved in until some time in May, but it has reported that it will support the issue on a state and federal level. "The AARP is fighting on all fronts,

said Davis. "We're using all PR and marketing tools available."

The group has launched a $10 million ad campaign, sent direct mailings to its members, earned several media placements, including in The New York Times, and plans to make candidates' views on the prescription drug issue known to its members during the 2002 elections.

Davis said, "You will continue to see the AARP. We need to keep informing our members so that they know the issues. Congress needs to know what the people want."

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