Bad news for seniors on drug pricing

March 7, 2016

While many Americans and legislators have complained about the rising cost of medications in recent years, seniors are likely impacted more than the population at large. The average retail price among 622 prescription medications widely used by seniors doubled from 2006 to 2013, to reach more than $11,000, according to the American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP)’s updated “Rx Price Watch” report.

While many Americans and legislators have complained about the rising cost of medications in recent years, seniors are likely impacted more than the population at large.

The average retail price among 622 prescription medications widely used by seniors doubled from 2006 to 2013, to reach more than $11,000, according to the American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP)’s updated “Rx Price Watch” report.

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Conversely, the average Social Security benefit for seniors in 2014 was $15,526 and the medium income for Medicare beneficiaries was $23,500.

Plus, in 2013, retail prices for the 622 brand name, generic, and specialty prescription drugs widely used by Medicare beneficiaries increased by an average of 9.4 percent. In contrast, the general inflation rate was 1.5% over the same period.

"The findings of this report are attributable entirely to drug price growth among brand name and specialty drugs, which more than offset often substantial price decreases among generics drugs," the report stated. "More importantly, the recent acceleration in overall prescription drug growth could be an indication that we can no longer rely on lower-priced generics to counterbalance the price trends seen in the brand name and specialty prescription drug markets."

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If the drug pricing trend continues, it will “almost undoubtedly become more difficult for patients “to access and afford necessary medications,” according to the report. “This will lead to poorer health outcomes and higher health care costs in the future.”

Policymakers should focus on options that drive innovation while also protecting the health and financial security of consumers and taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the report added.

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