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AARP: US Specialty Drug Prices Increase at Fastest Rate in Over a Decade

Retail prices for specialty prescription drugs widely used by older Americans ballooned by an average…

  • September 28, 2017

Retail prices for specialty prescription drugs widely used by older Americans ballooned by an average of 9.6% between 2014 and 2015, the highest increase since at least 2006, according to two new AARP Public Policy Institute reports.  These reports found that etail prices for some generic drugs saw more mixed results, with 11% showing price increases. While generic drug prices decreased overall in 2015, 11% of generic drugs saw price increases, some exceeding 100%. Specialty drugs generally include drugs used to treat complex, chronic health conditions. They often require special care in how they are administered to patients, as well as in how they are handled and stored.  Many specialty drugs treat conditions that are common among older people, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.

Wow, Look at These Drug Prices!

In 2015, the average annual cost of therapy with one specialty drug was USD 52,486, an amount more than three times higher than the average Social Security retirement benefit (USD 16,101) and twice the median income (USD 25,150) for someone on Medicare. By comparison, the average annual cost of therapy for one generic drug in 2015 was USD 523, down from USD 714 the year before. Among the 11% of generic drugs which saw price increases, all of the increases exceeded the rate of general inflation.

Between 2010 and 2015, all but 1 of the 399 widely-used generic drugs in this study experienced at least one retail price increase. Some of these price increases were extraordinary, exceeding 100%. Two manufacturers increased the retail price of doxycycline hyclate, a commonly-used generic antibiotic, by over 1,000%, the highest price increase noted in the generic drug report.

“American families can’t afford to keep paying for prescription drugs that cost more money than their salaries,” said AARP Chief Public Policy officer Debra Whitman. “These price increases are particularly hard on older adults, who take an average of 4 ½ prescription drugs per month and often live on fixed incomes.”

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