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Rx Price Watch Report: Trends in Retail Prices of Brand Name Prescription Drugs Widely Used by Older Americans: 2017 Year-End Update

The latest Rx Price Watch report by Leigh Purvis and Dr. Stephen W. Schondelmeyer finds that retail prices for widely used prescription drugs increased, on average, between 2006 and 2017. In 2017, retail prices for 267 brand name prescription drugs widely used by older adults increased by an average of 8.4 percent. In contrast, the general inflation rate was 2.1 percent over the same period.

Notably, the average annual cost of drug therapy for one brand name drug used on a chronic basis would have been more than $4,600 lower in 2017 ($2,178 v. $6,798) had their retail price changes been limited to the rate of general inflation between 2006 and 2017.

If recent trends in brand name drug price increases continue unabated, the cost of drugs will prompt increasing numbers of older Americans to stop taking necessary medications. This will lead to poorer health outcomes and higher health care costs in the future.

Policy makers interested in slowing brand name drug price increases should focus on changes that produce long-term, sustainable effects. While policy options should encourage meaningful pharmaceutical innovation, such options should be balanced with the need for improved health and the financial security of consumers and taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

These AARP Public Policy Institute reports are a continuation of our Rx Watchdog report series that has been tracking manufacturer price changes for widely used prescription drugs since 2004.

For more information, please contact the AARP Public Policy Institute at (202) 434-3890.

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