Prescription Drugs


Adopted by the CCAR


Adopted by the 114th Annual Convention

of the Central Conference

of American Rabbis

Omni Shoreham, Washington D.C.




For the

millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans, and for those

Americans on Medicare, the high cost of prescription drugs presents a

formidable hurdle in access to health care. The Union of American

Hebrew Congregations’ 1975 resolution calling for universal access to

health insurance has been the foundation of our efforts to improve the

American health care system. Now, as prescription drugs essential to

health and wellness are increasing so dramatically in cost, we add to

our original mandate and call for the inclusion of prescription drug

coverage in all health plans and the increased availability of more

affordable generic drugs.


1995, national spending on prescription drugs has grown by over 10%

per year. Seniors account for only 13% of the population, but for 34%

of all prescriptions dispensed and 42% of prescription drug spending.

Many elderly and disabled people live on fixed incomes and for them,

medication prices have become increasingly unaffordable. This

problem is compounded by the fact that Medicare does not provide any

prescription drug coverage, except when medication is administered in

the hospital. 47% of seniors lack prescription drug coverage at some

point during the year and with estimated average cost of medication at

$1,525 per Medicare enrollee in 2000, this represents a significant

cost burden.

According to

pharmaceutical companies, the high cost of prescription drugs,

particularly newer medications, is attributable to the high cost of

research and development (R&D). On the other hand, public interest

groups such as Families USA and Public Citizen point to the high

profitability of drug companies as an incentive for higher drug

prices. For each of the past ten years, pharmaceutical companies have

been the most profitable industry in the U.S. and in 2001 were 5 =

times more profitable than the average Fortune 500 Company.

Increased use of generic

drugs is often cited as a potential solution to the drug availability

crisis. For the past several years, about 45% of prescriptions were

filled with generic drugs, but only 8% of all money spent on

prescription drugs was spent on generics. In 2001, the average price

of a generic drug was $16.85, while the average price of a brand name

drug was $72.

The patent

laws governing release of generic drugs are a source of great

controversy. Brand-name drug companies claim that the laws encourage

generic companies to challenge innovator patents soon after their

original release, not allowing sufficient time for brand-name

companies to recoup their research costs. Generic drug companies

claim that brand-name pharmaceutical companies employ underhanded

tactics to postpone the release of generic drugs, to enhance their own


With the

availability of health care to all Americans as our goal, we recognize

the need for brand-name drug companies to be profitable, in order that

they may invest in research and development. We also recognize that

generic medications represent an affordable option and their enhanced

availability will open up access to drug treatments.

THEREFORE, the Central Conference of

American Rabbis resolves to:

  • Support measures that provide for the inclusion of a

    guaranteed comprehensive, out-patient prescription drug benefit in

    Medicare with provision for modest premiums and protection for low-

    income seniors and disabled;

  • Support measures that would

    increase availability of generic drugs including both the review of

    existing patent laws to assure that they provide for the timely

    introduction of generic drugs to the marketplace and the altering of

    existing patent laws to the extent that they unnecessarily delay the

    release of generic medications. We also acknowledge the importance of

    intellectual property rights and the need for the pharmaceutical

    industry to support its research and development.

  • Support

    examination of current drug distribution and commercialization to

    enhance availability of appropriate and less costly medications,

    keeping in mind that people’s enhanced health is the highest value.