WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–May 17, 2010. A new AARP Rx Watchdog report finds consumers were hit with nearly ten percent increases in brand name drug prices over the twelve-month period ending in March of this year. The 9.7 percent jump in manufacturer prices for brand name drugs widely used by people in Medicare was the largest twelve-month spike since AARP began tracking drug prices in 2002. By comparison, general inflation during the same twelve-month period remained nearly flat at 0.3 percent.
“The life-saving drugs Americans need are out of reach for many because of unjustifiable price hikes,” said AARP Executive Vice President John Rother. “Affordable medication can make the difference between a healthy lifestyle and a costly trip to the hospital. Consumers desperately need a competitive prescription drug market that balances the need for innovation with access to less costly medicines.”
The report by AARP’s Public Policy Institute finds that prices for specialty drugs widely used by people in Medicare climbed nearly as quickly—9.2 percent—as brand name drugs. This typically expensive group of drugs, which includes biologic and injected drugs, is often used to treat cancer, multiple sclerosis and other serious chronic conditions. Specialty drug costs can range from $1,000 to more than $20,000 per month.
While brand name drug prices continued to soar, the AARP report finds prices of generic drugs widely used by people in Medicare fell by 9.7 percent between April 2009 and March 2010. The average annual cost of therapy for a person taking three generic medications decreased by $51 during this twelve-month period, a marked contrast to the $706 increase experienced by a person taking three brand name prescriptions
Rother added: “Generic drugs have long been a bright spot among the dark clouds, with prices falling nearly as quickly as brand names are rising. That’s why we encourage every consumer to talk to her doctor about safe, affordable alternatives that could save thousands of dollars each year.”
AARP’s Doughnut Hole Calculator can help people in Medicare’s Prescription Drug Program find lower cost drugs that can save them money and keep them out of Medicare’s dreaded coverage gap. The calculator, available at www.aarp.org/doughnuthole, finds available options based on their current prescriptions and creates a customized letter to help people start a conversation with their doctor about switching to lower cost drugs.
AARP is also working to lower prescription drug costs and create more competition in the marketplace. The recently enacted health care law will begin closing the gap in Medicare drug coverage in 2011 and provide people in the gap this year with an extra $250 to help pay for their drug costs. The Association has also called on lawmakers to allow for the safe and legal importation of prescription drugs from abroad, bring generic versions of biologic drugs to market faster and allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly with drug makers.
The list of prescription drugs analyzed in the AARP Rx Watchdog report is based on the drugs most widely prescribed to people in Medicare Part D. Price changes are measured using changes in the wholesale acquisition cost (WAC) as published by the Medi-Span Price-Chek PC database.
The complete AARP Rx Watchdog report is available at http://www.aarp.org/research/ppi/health-care/medicare/articles/rx_watchdog.html.