Retail prices for 267 brand-name drugs commonly used by older adults surged by an average of 5.8 percent in 2018, more than twice the general inflation rate of 2.4 percent, according to AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI) data. The annual average of one brand-name drug ballooned to more than $7,200 in 2018, up from nearly $1,900 in 2006.
“There seems to be no end to these relentless brand-name drug price increases,” said Debra Whitman, executive vice president and chief public policy officer at AARP. “To put this into perspective: If gasoline prices had grown at the same rate as these widely used brand-name drugs over the past 12 years, gas would cost $8.34 per gallon at the pump today. Imagine how outraged Americans would be if they were forced to pay those kinds of prices.”
Brand-name drug price increases have consistently and substantially exceeded the general inflation rate of other consumer goods for over a decade, according to the AARP PPI data.
If brand-name drug retail price changes had been limited to the general inflation rate between 2006 and 2018, the average annual of one brand-name drug would be a whopping $5,000 lower today ($2,178 vs. $7,202). The average senior takes four to five medications each month, and the current medication cost translates into an annual cost of more than $32,000, almost 25 percent higher than the median annual income of $26,200 for a Medicare beneficiary.
“While some people will undoubtedly see a slower rate of price increases as a sign of improvement, the reality is that there is absolutely nothing to stop drug companies from reverting back to double-digit percentage price increases every year,” said Leigh Purvis, director of health services research, AARP Public Policy Institute, and co-author of the report. “Americans will remain at the mercy of drug manufacturers’ pricing behavior until Congress takes major legislative action.”
To view the full report, visit www.aarp.org/rxpricewatch.