Manufacturer prices for brand-name prescription drugs widely used by
Medicare beneficiaries jumped by nearly 9 percent in 2008, according to the
2009 AARP "Rx Watchdog Report."
That increase was the largest annual increase in six years and greatly
exceeded the general inflation rate of 3.8 percent.
Major classes of psychiatric brand-name drugs—including
antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, antidementia
agents—experienced price increases that exceeded general inflation.
Grouped in a class and compared with all other therapeutic drug categories,
two dosages of Wellbutrin (300 mg and 150 mg) experienced the greatest
increase, rising in price by 21 percent (see
Meanwhile, manufacturer prices of widely used generic drugs continued to
decrease in 2008, falling by an average of 10.6 percent. The majority of
generics (83 percent) did not change in price in 2008, despite an increase in
And some of the generics that did drop in price did so very dramatically.
For instance, the manufacturer price for the brand-name antidepressant Zoloft
(50 mg and 100 mg tablets) increased by 12.3 percent in 2008, but the price
for generic sertraline made by Teva Pharmaceuticals decreased by 45.1 percent,
according to the report.
"A person taking three brand-name prescription drugs could see his or
her annual costs climb by more than $550 in just one year," AARP Public
Policy Director John Rother said in a statement released with the report."
Switching to generic drugs whenever possible is one of the quickest and
easiest ways to drastically reduce health care bills."
The list of prescription drugs widely used by Medicare beneficiaries is
based on the 300 most widely dispensed drug products, the 300 drug products
with the highest sales levels, and the 300 drug products with the highest
number of days of therapy among the prescriptions provided by United
Healthcare-PacificCare. (That company provides Medicare Part D coverage and is
also the organization that insures the AARP Medicare Rx Plans.)
Price changes were measured using changes in the wholesale acquisition cost
as published by the Medi-Span Price-Chek PC Database.