Drug prices for seniors outpaced inflation in 2002

September 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

The prices of the 50 drugs most commonly prescribed to seniors rose, on average, at nearly 3.5 times the rate of inflation in 2002, according to a report released by Washington-based Families USA.

The prices of the 50 drugs most commonly prescribed to seniors rose, on average, at nearly 3.5 times the rate of inflation in 2002, according to a report released by Washington-based Families USA.

The study compared 2002's price increases for generic versus brand-name drugs. It found that 15 of the top 50 drugs sold to seniors were generic drugs, and 35 were brand-name drugs. On average, prices for generics rose by 2.6%, and prices for brand-name drugs rose by 7.1%. Nine of the 15 generic drugs did not increase in price last year, while only three of the 35 brand-name drugs did not increase in price.

Among the top 50 drugs sold to seniors, 27 rose in price at three or more times the rate of inflation from January 2002 to January 2003, according to the report. Thirty-seven rose in price at 1.5 or more times the rate of inflation. Of the 38 that had been on the market for at least five years, more than three-quarters rose in price at two or more times the rate of inflation during that period.

"These alarming price increases continue to eat away at the fixed incomes of senior citizens, especially those low-income seniors who make up one-third of those in Medicare and who can least afford to pay for their medicines," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA.

Only undiscounted prices are referenced

The Washington-based Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said the study was not an accurate look at drug prices because it did not include discounted medicines that companies provide through patient assistance programs and samples.

"Instead of misleading seniors by referencing only undiscounted prices, [Families USA] should be helping them gain access to the life-saving, cost-effective medicines they need," a statement from PhRMA read. "Pharmaceutical companies provide patient assistance programs that offer access to free medicines and offer many discount programs to seniors. We hope Families USA will help inform seniors about these programs." PR

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