Cost of drugs for seniors rose in 2001

September 1, 2002

Pharmaceutical Representative

The prices of the 50 most prescribed drugs for senior citizens rose, on average, by nearly three times the rate of inflation last year.

The prices of the 50 most prescribed drugs for senior citizens rose, on average, by nearly three times the rate of inflation last year, according to a new report released by the Washington-based advocacy group Families USA.

The study analyzed price increases for the 50 most commonly prescribed drugs for seniors in the last year (January 2001 through January 2002), in the past five years and in the past ten years. The report found that last year, nearly three quarters (36 out of 50) of these drugs rose at least one-and-one-half times the rate of inflation, while over one-third (18 of 50) rose at three or more times the rate of inflation.

"There is no reasonable basis for these alarming price increases, which continue to make prescription drugs unaffordable for too many seniors," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA.

Families USA also compared price increases of generic versus brand-name drugs. The report showed that prices of brand-name drugs rose four-and-one-half times faster than the rate of price increases for generic drugs (8.1% versus 1.8%).

R&D debate

The Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said the report brought no new information to the debate over prescription drug prices.

"The facts are undeniable: America's pharmaceutical companies spent more than $30 billion last year on research and development of new drugs – an amount that literally dwarfed the $2.8 billion they spent that same year on advertising according to NDC Health," said Jackie Cottrell, a spokeswoman for PhRMA.

But Pollack said claims that companies needed to recoup their research and development costs were unfounded.

"This claim is nonsense, since drugs that have been on the market for 10 years or more continue to rise in price at rates that far exceed the rate of inflation," Pollack commented.

Price differences

Cottrell also blamed high prices on the fact that some pharmacies were simply charging more for the medications they sold.

"Families USA ignores the fact that the retail prices of the same medicine can vary by more than 100% within a few city blocks," she said. "Seniors may want to shop around to find the best value for their prescription drug dollar, while ensuring that their doctors and pharmacists know all the medicines they are taking. And patients who truly cannot afford the medicines they need should work with their doctors to apply to the patient assistance programs run by the individual pharmaceutical companies." PR

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