Drug prices are up--way up. That's the conclusion of a report from AARP, which looked at branded prescription drugs most commonly used by Medicare patients. Prices for those meds grew by 9.7 percent for the year ended in March. That's the biggest annual price hike since AARP started tracking them in 2002.
Every single one of those top 25 drugs got higher prices over that time frame. Some notable increases: A 27.6 percent price hike for Boehringer Ingelheim's prostate drug Flomax, the biggest increase on the list, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. In second place was AstraZeneca's (NYSE: AZN) antipsychotic drug Seroquel with a 15.6 percent hike. It was followed by Eisai's Alzheimer's disease drug Aricept (13.9 percent), Sanofi-Aventis' (NYSE: SNY) sedative Ambien (13.9 percent), and GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE: GSK) diabetes drug Avandia (11.6 percent).
As the Wall Street Journal notes, this AARP report comes on the heels of a pricing report last month from pharmacy-benefits manager Express Scripts. That company recorded a 9.1 percent price hike for branded meds last year, and an even higher 11.5 percent rise for specialty drugs. At that time, an Express Scripts spokesman told the Journal that drugmakers may have raised prices in anticipation of higher Medicaid rebates ushered in by U.S. healthcare reform; drugmakers denied any link.
PhRMA responded to the AARP report by calling it "misleading" because it doesn't allow for discounts and rebates that drugmakers typically negotiate with payers; the group also noted that growth in prescription-drug costs accounts for a decreasing share of the growth in overall healthcare costs.