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AARP claims US prescription drug prices continue to rise

Friday, April 15, 2005

The organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons released a report claiming that prescription drug prices in the United States rose 7.1% in 2004. Overall U.S. inflation was about 3 percent in 2004.

The study covers 197 of "the brand name prescription drugs most widely used by Americans age 50 and older." The drug prices are compared on a month-by-month basis, i.e. January of 2004 is compared to January of 2003. Percentages were then averaged to arrive at quarterly and annual figures. According to the report, most of the change occurred in the first quarter of 2004; the average brand-name drug price in the first quarter of 2004 was 3.5% higher than the average price in the same quarter in 2003.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group, faults the AARP's report. For example, the trade group says medical inflation, which is greater than overall inflation in the United States, would have made a more appropriate comparison.

Three drugs increased by more than 20% in price in 2004, said the study: Premarin, Miacalcin, and Neurontin. The companies that led the way with price increases were Boehringer Ingelheim, Aventis, and Purdue Pharmaceuticals, each with average price increases of greater than 10%. Three companies increased their prices by less than 6%: Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, and Eisai, according to the study.

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