AARP finds nearly 26% increase in retail drug prices

AARP has unveiled its latest look at drug prices, and once again, the association of 50-plus Americans has found big increases. AARP found that drugs used most by older folk cost nearly 26% more in 2009 than they did in 2005, despite increased use of generics.

As The New York Times reports, the report comprised 514 branded and generic meds most used by Medicare recipients. Generics prices dropped 31% over the 2005-2009 time frame, but branded drugs rose 41%. Specialty drugs increased even more at 48%. Inflation over the same period amounted to 13%, the group found.

The increases came on top of previous price growth, AARP Senior Vice President Cheryl Matheis told the newspaper. "At a time when ... inflation is really, really low, inflation in the cost of prescription drugs is going in the other direction," Matheis said. "The word we use is relentless because it just doesn't seem to abate."

Drugmakers and others took issue with the fact that AARP used retail prices at the pharmacy level, despite the fact that most customers don't pay full freight. Also, the sticker price doesn't include rebates, discounts and other cost incentives. Plus, as the NYT points out, studies using more recent data have found a slackening in overall price growth, with percentage increases in the low single digits. Prices for some individual drugs increased markedly, however, as pharma companies raised the cost of drugs approaching the end of their patent life, to squeeze as much revenue from them as possible.

- read the NYT coverage
- get the statement from PhRMA