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 Popular Senior Prescription Drug Prices Rise Sharply: Report

In a new report released by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), researchers found that the most widely prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors experienced sharp price increases over the past five years, even as prescriptions declined.

The report​, titled “Manufactured Crisis: How Devastating Drug Price Increases are Harming America’s Seniors,” said prescriptions for top-selling drugs like Advair, Crestor, Lyrica, and Nexium dropped by 48 million, but revenue increased by $8.5 billion from 2012 to 2017.

“Can you imagine if you went to an auto dealership and last year’s exact model was being sold at a 20 percent mark-up, and then you went back the next year and it had happened again?” McCaskill said. “That’s exactly what’s happening in the prescription drug industry, where the cost of identical drugs skyrockets year after year.”

At the request of McCaskill, minority staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs compiled the report, which reviews overall price increases amongst the top 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors. 

The increased spending is also trickling down to Medicare beneficiaries. “According to one independent study, Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs is expected to increase from 41 percent of per capita Social Security income in 2013 to 50 percent in 2030,” the report said.

Other highlights from the findings include:
  • Prices increased for every brand-name drug of the top 20 most-prescribed drugs for seniors in the past five years. On average, the price increase worked out to 12 percent every year for the past five years, which is around 10 times higher than the average annual rate of inflation.

  • Twelve out of the 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors saw prices inflate by more than 50 percent in the five-year study period. Six of the 20 had price increases of over 100 percent. In one case, the weighted average wholesale acquisition cost for a single drug increased by 477 percent over a five-year period.
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