AARP unleashes 'Rx Price Watch' report

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AARP, which has taken heat for omitting rebates and discounts from its old “Rx Watchdog” pricing reports, said it found such discounts do little to hold down prices.

The association rebranded its latest report “Rx Price Watch” to mark a switch to retail prices, or the amount that is actually charged to consumers (and/or insurers), as the primary data source. AARP adopted the Thomson Reuters MarketScan Research Databases, which compares the rate of inflation with changes in retail price charged to consumers ages 50 and older enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans.

Even with the different methodology, findings paralleled the association's earlier “Watchdog” reports: The new report showed that prices for 217 widely used brand name drugs climbed 8.3% in 2009 (compared to manufacturer increases of 9.3%). That's higher than the rate of increase during any single year since 2004 and far greater than the inflation rate during the last five years, which has fallen 0.3%, the report noted.

PhRMA called the new report “distorted and misleading” because it didn't reflect generic drugs, which account for 75% of prescribing. But AARP said most of the drugs surveyed are still under patent, with no generics available.

“For the first time, we know that brand name drug retail prices are growing just as quickly as manufacturer prices,” said John Rother, AARP EVP, in a statement.

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