Government watchdog finds that most but not all generic drug prices are falling

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Even though generic drug prices prices largely fell for Medicare beneficiaries from 2010 to 2015, nearly 20% of generic drugs saw extraordinary price increases during the same five year period, according to a government report.

The Government Accountability Office found that generic drug prices in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program fell 59% during the last five years.

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The GAO analysis found that 300 of the 1,441 generic drugs it analyzed had at least one price increase of 100% or higher from 2010 to 2015. Those price increases weren't limited to a single instance, either. The report found that most of those dramatic price increases were not temporary, lasting for at least one year, and “most had no downward movement after the extraordinary price increase.”

These findings come as Medicare Part D beneficiaries are increasingly being prescribed generic drugs. From 2010 to 2015, the percentage of generic drugs dispensed in Part D jumped from 72% in the beginning of 2010 to 86% by the second quarter of 2015. However, most of the drugs with the highest price increases were not the most utilized drugs by Part D beneficiaries.

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Generic Pharmaceutical Association CEO Chip Davis defended the affordability of generic drugs in a statement, saying that “generic drugs are overwhelming responsible for making medicines accessible and affordable in the United States.” He added that the report is consistent with the “prevailing market trend” that generic drug prices continue to decline year over year.

Oral drugs were more prone to price increases than injectable medications — 78% of the total price increases came from oral drugs between 2014 and 2015, according to the findings.

Drug pricing has become a hot button issue in recent years after Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Turing Pharmaceuticals, and, more recently, Mylan, enacted dramatic price increases for some of the therapies. Some lawmakers have argued that the FDA's backlog of generic drug applications is in part to blame, especially in the case of Turing's Daraprim, a generic drug used primarily by AIDS patients with no competition that had its price increased by 5,000%.