Prescription Drug Prices on the Rise for Older Americans

Despite negative inflation, prescription drug prices are on the rise for older Americans, The New York Times reported yesterday. The report, to be released by the AARP later today, says that prices for the 217 drugs most commonly used by older Americans rose by an average of 8.3%, marking the highest increase in years. prescription drugs

Over the past five years, brand-name drug prices have risen an average of 41.5%, and the consumer price index 13.3%. The AARP has called for measures to keep drug costs down, but pharmaceutical industry reps dispute the validity of these latest reports, claiming that the figures don’t present an accurate representation of the rise in prices.

According to drug industry officials, the price increase for brand-name pharmaceuticals doesn’t represent the fact that 75% of all dispensed pharmaceuticals are generics, according to research firm IMS Health. When generic prices are taken into consideration, the average price increase was 3.4% for 2009, per a broader survey conducted by the government for the official Consumer Price Index.

While it’s true that many dispensed drugs are generics, many older Americans rely on brand-name pharmaceuticals for the treatment of chronic conditions — products that are still under patent and therefore don’t yet have generic competition. This pushes many seniors into the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” leaving them to pay 100% of the cost of their prescriptions.

This report comes alongside a poll conducted by The New York Times that indicates that Americans are skimping on prescription drugs due to rising costs. The poll, published yesterday, surveyed more than 1,100 adults by telephone about their prescription drug usage. The results clearly indicate that the cost of medication impacts patient compliance:

  • 27% said they had been non-compliant with a prescription drug regimen in order to save money.
  • 16% skipped filling a prescription due to cost.
  • 12% skipped a dose to save money.
  • 8% cut pills in half to save money.

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