Prescription drug costs doubled in seven years

The average retail cost for a year’s supply of many widely used prescription drugs has surpassed $11,000, according to a new AARP Public Policy Institute report.

That’s about 75 percent of the average annual Social Security retirement benefit, and half the median income of someone on Medicare.

These numbers were revealed in a recent story in the AARP Bulletin.

The latest report in AARP’s Rx Price Watch series looked at more than 600 specialty, brand-name and generic drugs most widely used by older Americans from 2006-2013. Through 2012, average annual price increases for the selected drug ranged from 3.6 percent to 7.6 percent. In 2013, the average increase was 9.4 percent with brand name drugs jumping nearly 13 percent.

The average retail price for a year’s supply of the medications more than doubled, from $5,571 in 2006 to $11,341 in 2013. Prices for specialty drugs, such as for cancer and hepatitis, have soared the most. The average cost for specialty drugs was $53,384 in 2013 – 18 times more than for a brand name drug at $2,960, and 189 times higher than for a generic drug at $283.

PhRMA, the drug industry’s advocacy group, said other research shows that spending on drugs “has been a consistent share of overall care spending.”

Says Debra Whitman, AARP chief public policy officer: “If these trends continue, more and more Americans will simply be unable to afford the medications that they need to get and stay healthy.”