PhRMA disputes AARP study findings

The pharmaceutical industry is disputing findings of a report released this week by senior citizen advocacy group AARP claiming prescription drug prices have jumped nearly 4% during the first three months of 2006. The report was conducted by AARP’s Public Policy Institute, in conjunction with the PRIME Institute at the University of Minnesota and found manufacturer prices for nearly 200 of the most commonly used brand-name medications rose at a rate of 3.9 percent during the first quarter of 2006, triple the rate of inflation. AARP said the rise was the highest first quarter increase in manufacturer prices for brand name prescription drugs in the more than six-year period the group has been watching prices. The biggest rise, the report said, was 9.9% for Sanofi-Aventis’ sleeping pill Ambien. Pfizer’s cholesterol treatment Lipitor, the world’s best-selling brand name prescription drug, was up 4.7% to 6.5%, depending on the dosage, the report found. “State, federal and family healthcare budgets are being stretched to the max and, sadly, sometimes beyond,” AARP CEO Bill Novelli said. “It is simply unsustainable for American consumers to continue footing the bill for large increases in drug prices.” Industry trade group PhRMA refuted the report’s findings arguing that AARP is merely trying to scare seniors with “a flawed and deceptive study.” “As with previous reports, this one also lacks credibility because the US government’s publicly available consumer price data clearly show that inflation of prescription drug prices has been in line with overall medical care cost inflation for the past several years,” said PhRMA SVP Ken Johnson in a statement. “Publicly available data from IMS Health also show drug costs are slowing,” he said. “Prescription drug costs, including both price and increased use, have increased only 4% over the most recent 12-month period. And the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary notes that drug costs are growing more slowly than it previously estimated, which is reducing the previously forecast cost of the new Medicare prescription drug program significantly . . . Unfortunately AARP seems more interested in generating headlines than in helping America’s seniors.”