Drug Prices Jump in First Quarter

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Drug Prices Jump in First Quarter


Wholesale prices for the 197 brandname prescription drugs most frequently used by older Americans rose by an average of 3.4% during the first quarter of 2004, compared with a 1.2% rate of general inflation for the same period, according to a study released in June by AARP. Furthermore, the study found that the average annual rate of increase rose from 6.9% for the 12 months ending December 2003 to 7.2% for the 12 months ending March 2004.

The report, "Trends in Manufacturer Prices of Brand Name Prescription Drugs Used by Older Americans-First Quarter 2004 Update," is the first quarterly update in an ongoing study of changes in prices that drug manufacturers charge wholesalers. A baseline study published in May 2004 looked at prices from 2000 through 2003, and found manufacturers' wholesale prices, on average, had steadily increased and, for each year, exceeded the rate of general inflation.

The study, published by the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI), found that 58 of the drugs studied, almost one in three, had increases in the first quarter of 2004 of more than 5%, or more than quadruple the rate of inflation for the same period. First-quarter increases of more than 7.5% were found in 21 of the drugs.

TOP 25 DRUGS

Of the 25 brand-name drugs with the greatest sales in 2003, 16 had price increases in the first quarter of 2004. Plavix 75 mg., manufactured by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), which is third in sales among the drugs studied, had the highest-percentage price increase among the top 25 drugs, with 7.

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