The AARP reported on what a lot of older Americans know and detest: prescription drug costs are skyrocketing out of their reach.
Drug manufacturer price spikes have put the average cost for a year’s supply of a prescription drug at more than $11,000.
“This average annual cost was almost three-quarters of the average Social Security retirement benefit ($15,526),” the AARP Public Policy Institute report said. “It was also almost half of the median income for Medicare beneficiaries ($23,500) and more than one-fifth of the median U.S. household income ($52,250) over the same time period.”
Also, among people receiving Social Security, 22 percent of married couples and about 47 percent of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. So the constantly rising prescription drug costs hurt a lot of people and deeply affects their health because many cut their medication in half or stop taking them altogether.
The AARP policy institute says, “the recent acceleration in overall prescription drug price growth could be an indication that we can no longer rely on lower-priced generics to counterbalance the price trends seen in the brand name and specialty prescription drug markets.”
The report found that retail prices for widely used medications increased at six times the rate of general inflation in 2013. That is unconscionable.
Also, prices of some generic drugs, which are thought to be the lower cost alternative, have gone up.
The report examined drug prices from 2006 to 2013. From 2006 to 2012, prices increased 3.6 percent to 7.6 percent. In 2013, the average price increase for more than 600 brand name, specialty and generic drugs was 9.4 percent.
“If these trends continue, more and more Americans will simply be unable to afford the medications that they need to get and stay healthy,” said Debra Whitman, AARP’s chief public policy officer said in an AARP blog.
“The newest report is the latest in a series that examines the retail prices of brand name, specialty and generic prescription drugs most widely used by older Americans,” the AARP blog noted. “The average retail price among these medications more than doubled from $5,571 in 2006 to a whopping $11,341 in 2013.
“The price tag for specialty drugs, such as for cancer, hepatitis and rare diseases, soared the most,” the blog said. “The average annual specialty drug cost $53,384 in 2013, 18 times the average annual cost for a brand-name drug at $2,960 and 189 times higher than the average annual price for a generic drug at $283.”
Baby boomers and other older Americans feel the pinch because Medicare plans generally require patients to pay co-insurance — sometimes as much as 50 percent compared with private plans. The sharp increases also hurt employers and private insurers because of high premiums, and taxpayers who pay for programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
What’s certain is it will only get worse as more Americans get older and become more dependent on prescription drugs to get or stay in good health.