Report says 7.1 percent increase in US brand-name drug prices in 2004

AARP, a US lobby group for elderly Americans, said Tuesday that US wholesale prices for brand-name prescription drugs rose on average 7.1 percent last year, more than twice the rate of general inflation, USA Today and other news sources report. Manufacturer's prices for generic drugs, by contrast, increased 0.5 percent in 2004.

The AARP report, which surveyed prices for the 195 brand-name prescription drugs most often used by Americans who are 50 and older, found that wholesale prices for more than 150 brand-name drugs have risen an average of 35.1 percent since 1999, nearly three times the rate of inflation of 13.5 percent for the same period, as reported in Forbes.

Drugs with the highest price hikes from 2003 to 2004 were Wyeth's Premarin; Novartis' Miacalcin; Pfizer's Neurontin; sanofi-aventis' Amaryl and Lantus; and Boehringer Ingelheim's Combivent and Atrovent, as reported in CNN Money. Only nine of the drugs surveyed had increases that were lower than the inflation rate.

Among the 25 best-selling brand-name drugs, sanofi's Ambien had the largest increase, at 11.9 percent, and Plavix jumped 7.9 percent, as reported in the news sources.

Bill Novelli, AARP's CEO, called the price increases disappointing. "Much more needs to be done to slow down spiralling drug pricing," he commented, USA Today reports. However, Ken Johnson, of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the study was "exaggerated and misleading" because it excludes factors such as rebates, which could lower retail costs. "Price data clearly shows prescription-drug prices have increased about 4 percent a year," which is in line with growth in other health costs, Johnson stated, reports USA Today.

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