Drug prices jump 7.1 percent in 2004, AARP study says

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Wholesale prices for brand-name prescription drugs rose 7.1 percent in 2004, the largest increase in five years and more than twice the rate of overall inflation, the AARP said.
AARP's annual Watchdog Report released yesterday tracked the prices drug manufacturers charged wholesalers last year for about 200 prescription drugs and 75 generics popular with older Americans.
But the Pharmaceutical research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), told the Associated Press that the AARP study was misleading on two counts.
PhRMA said the study compares brand-name drug prices with general inflation, rather than medical inflation. The trade group also said the AARP study relies on the wholesale acquisition price, which does not take into account rebates and discounts provided by the manufacturer.
"It's just not indicative of what people pay at the counter," Lori Reilly, PhRMA's deputy vice president for policy and research told the AP.
Reilly said, when compared with medical inflation, prescription drug prices, including generics, rose about 4 percent versus 4.7 percent for other medical services. The 4 percent increase is based on the consumer price index, which Reilly said is the most accurate measure for what consumers actually pay.
AARP said that since the end of 1999, the average wholesale price of more than 150 popular brand-name drugs rose an average 35.1 percent, nearly three times the 13. 5 percent inflation rate over that period, the report said.
Among the 25-best selling drugs on the market in 2003 and 2004, the sleep medication Ambien saw the largest price jump at 11.9 percent. Flomax, used to treat enlarged prostates rose the least at 1.5 percent, the report said.
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