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The cost of prescription drugs is rising twice as fast as the rate of inflation, AARP says

Prescription drugs pill bottles Getty 022509
Posted at 2:18 PM, Jun 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 14:11:13-04

Prices for pretty much everything are on the rise at the moment. But there's one critical product where prices continue to rise well above inflation: medication.

Leigh Purvis, the director of health care costs and access at AARP's Public Policy Institute, says the cost of drugs is increasing at more than double the rate of inflation.

AARP has been studying the prices of prescription drugs commonly used by older Americans for the past 16 years. Each year, prices go up faster than inflation.

Between 2019 and 2020, prescription drug prices rose nearly 3%. From January 2006 to December 2020, retail prices for 654 brand-name drugs went up an average of 277%. That would be like a gallon of milk selling for $12.18 compared to 2016 prices.

There is a silver lining — last year's increases were lower compared to years past.

"There has been a high level of scrutiny on brand-name drug companies pricing practices lately, and I think their behavior has kind of responded to that," Purvis said. "They're definitely aware that policymakers are looking at ways to reduce prescription drug prices, or at least reduce those increases, and I think their behavior is kind of matching that level of scrutiny."

AARP is lobbying for resolutions that would allow Medicare to negotiate with drug manufacturers to help bring down prices. They're also advocating for creating a hard out-of-pocket limit under Medicare Part D, which pays for prescription drugs. They also favor penalizing drug manufacturers who increase their prices faster than inflation.

"Something else it's really important for Medicare beneficiaries is to look into Extra Help, which is a program that can help Medicare Part D enrollees with their premium and out-of-pocket costs," Purvis said.

AARP also encourages patients to talk to doctors and pharmacists about lower-cost alternatives.