Astudy released last month by AARP (formerly known as the American
Association of Retired Persons) found that manufacturers' wholesale prices for
197 brand-name prescription drugs most frequently used by older Americans rose
3.4 percent during the three-month period ending March 31, compared with a 1.2
percent rate of general inflation for the same
The average annual rate of increase rose from 6.9 percent for the 12 months
ending December 2003 to 7.2 percent for the 12 months ending March 2004.
The report, "Trends in Manufacturer Prices of Brand-Name Prescription
Drugs Used by Older Americans—First Quarter 2004 Update," is the
first quarterly update in a study of changes in prices that drug manufacturers
charge wholesalers. A baseline study published in May 2004 looked at prices
between 2000 and 2003 and found manufacturers' wholesale prices, on average,
had steadily increased and for each year exceeded the rate of general
inflation. Researchers are focusing on manufacturers' price to whole-salers
because it is the most substantial component of a prescription drug's retail
The study, published by the AARP Public Policy Institute, found that 29
percent (58) of the drugs studied had increases in the first quarter (December
31, 2003, to March 31) of more than 5 percent, or more than four times the
rate of inflation for the same period. First quarter increases of more than
7.5 percent were found in almost 11 percent (21) of the drugs.
Of the 25 brand-name drugs with the greatest sales in 2003, nearly
two-thirds (16) had price increases in the first quarter of 2004. Among those
top 25, Aricept, an antidementia drug, rose in price by 4.5 percent, and
Neurontin, an anticonvulsant, rose in price by 6.4 percent in the first
quarter of 2004.
The report also looked at price increases among drugs by therapeutic
category. Anticonvulsants rose in price by 5.6 percent, and antipsychotics
rose in price by 4.5 percent. Prices for antidepressants, including SSRIs and
other antidepressants, did not increase during the first quarter of 2004,
according to the report.