Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 26, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

DRUG COSTS....Now here's some shocking news: the cost of prescription drugs is really high. And getting higher:

The Public Policy Institute at AARP, the seniors' advocacy group, found that wholesale prices for drugs most often prescribed for Americans age 50 and over increased an average of 27.6 percent from 2000 through 2003. In the same period, inflation increased only 10.4 percent. The study included the top 197 drugs.

....A separate study by Families USA...found that the top-selling drug among seniors, Lipitor, which lowers cholesterol, increased in price by 27 percent from January 2001 to January 2004. The second most-prescribed drug for seniors, Plavix, which prevents blood clots, rose by 34.8 percent over the same period.

....[But] the reports should have looked at the entire health care spectrum rather than just drug prices, [drug industry flack Jeff] Trewhitt added. For the last three years, inflation in the health care industry has averaged about 4.6 percent a year, while the rate of prescription drug inflation has been about 4.4 percent. "So we're in line with overall medical inflation," Trewhitt said.

Idiot. Medical inflation is higher than overall inflation because of new technologies and different treatment patterns, not because of price increases for existing treatments. Why should the price of Lipitor, which was developed years ago, increase 27% in three years?

And here are a couple of other soothing thoughts. First, those drug discount cards rushed into production in time for the election are "mass confusion." So don't expect much help there. Second, the same Medicare bill that gave us the discount cards also specifically prevents Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. Can't let the free market get out of hand, after all.

Nice, eh? And just think: it probably only cost the drug companies a few million dollars in bribes campaign contributions. Just another public service from your Republican Congress.

Kevin Drum 2:19 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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