U.S. drug prices outstrip other medical costs: GAO

LOS ANGELES Mon Mar 14, 2011 6:22pm EDT

A pharmacy employee dumps pills into a pill counting machine as she fills a prescription while working at a pharmacy in New York December 23, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

A pharmacy employee dumps pills into a pill counting machine as she fills a prescription while working at a pharmacy in New York December 23, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. prices for brand-name prescription drugs rose at a faster rate than costs for other medical goods and services over the last four years, according to a new U.S. government report.

The nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the "usual and customary" price index for the top 100 commonly used drugs increased by an annual average of 6.6 percent from 2006 through the first quarter of 2010, compared with a 3.8 percent average annual increase in the consumer price index for medical goods and services.

The basket of drugs contained 55 brand-name medicines and 45 generic drugs.

Prices for the brand-name drugs rose by an annual average of 8.3 percent, while prices for the generics fell by 2.6 percent annually, according to the report.

When looking at the 100-drug basket by active ingredient -- meaning brand-name products and generics with the same active ingredient were considered as the same drug -- the GAO found that prices rose by about 2.6 percent a year.

"This report reminds us that this is an area where we should be looking for savings for taxpayers and beneficiaries," Democratic Rep. Pete Stark, a ranking member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health,

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said it was "pleased" that the GAO took into account the mix of brand and generic medicines that patients actually use.

"The report's key finding shows prices have been increasing at a rate of 2.6 percent annually, which is lower than overall medical inflation," the trade group said in a statement.

(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Bernard Orr)

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Comments (4)
FarmerBob wrote:
Albuterol Inhalers when switched from CFC to HFA was the excuse for them to raise prices from 400 to 800%. And now the pseudo’s are now worried about many patents expiring putting more (inexpensive) generics on the market.

But if you have insurance you don’t have to worry. I got illegally dropped before getting dropped was fashionable. So I do have to worry. Thanks Republicans.

Mar 14, 2011 8:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ROWnine wrote:
Any crack head, I mean car accident victim, on public assistance gets the brand name stuff most recognized on the street. With all the auditors you would think the government could shut down the supply by just investigating why some practitioners pain pill prescription were way out of line with practice norms. Lots of Legal drug dealers out there paying for their summer retreats off the public’s dime.

Mar 14, 2011 11:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
KimoLee wrote:
Drug companies periodically create shortages of certain popular generic drugs to jack up the price and/or push consumers to switch to a more expensive drug than what was prescribed. Of course, my crummy Anthem Blue Cross insurance policy does not cover prescriptions until my annual $2,500 deductible is met, so I pretty much pay for ALL my healthcare out of pocket each year. Hence, I hunt around for the best prices – CANADA. Our politicians are crooks, not allowing us to legally purchase prescription drugs from other safe countries that don’t gouge the public. American politicians are a bunch of crooks that don’t give a rats &*$ about the average American, but absolutely love the rich.

Mar 15, 2011 1:25am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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