USA TODAY US Edition
Prescription drug prices rise again in 2020
Increase slows, but still is double inflation rate
In 2012, Lynn Scarfuto was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. After surgeries and chemotherapy, her oncologist prescribed the oral medication Imbruvica, a drug that costs more than $14,000 a month.
Scarfuto is on Medicare but said she still wouldn’t be able to afford the drug without a grant from the Patient Access Network Foundation and New York State’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program. The drug has seen an 82% price increase since its release in 2013, according to a report in May from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Reform.
Scarfuto is only one of many seniors across the United States struggling to pay for their prescriptions.
Brand-name drugs widely used by seniors saw their slowest average annual price increase in 2020 since 2006. But the 2.9% increase is still twice the country’s general inflation rate of 1.3%, says a report from AARP.
“We really are concerned that we’re reaching a point where a lot of people aren’t going to be able to afford the drugs that they need,” said Leigh Purvis of AARP.
The findings, published in the AARP Public Policy Institute’s Rx Price Watch Report, showed insurance-negotiated prices of 260 brand-name prescription drugs have increased, on average, faster than general inflation every year since 2006.
A single brand-name medication taken on a scheduled, repeating basis, was more than $6,600 a month in 2020, according to the report, and older Americans take, on average, 4.7 prescription drugs every month.
If price increases hadn’t exceeded inflation, the same single drug would have cost $2,900, about $3,700 less.
The consequences are real for people like Scarfuto.
“If medications are specific to a certain population of people, then what is the sense of charging $14,000?” said Scarfuto, a retired nurse. “It might as well be $100,000. People cannot afford to make a choice between food or living and taking pills.”