Studies: Generics Are a Better Buy

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Even as the manufacturers of brand name prescription drugs continue to raise prices for their products, generic drug makers are holding the line and resisting price increases, according to a pair of new studies released by AARP. A sample of 75 generic drugs tracked by AARP researchers found that, on average, manufacturer-suggested list prices for those products rose by only 0.7% during the 12 months prior to March 31, 2005.

The generic drug price inflation shows signs of continued slowing during 2005. For the first quarter of this year, only 3 of the 75 generic products tracked by AARP showed an increase in price.

It was a different story for branded pharmaceuticals, AARP reported. During the same 12-month period, the researchers found that the average annual price of brand name drugs increased by 6.6%—more than twice the overall US inflation rate of 3.0% for that period.

"We are very disappointed that brand name manufacturers have failed to keep their price increases in line with inflation, and we will continue to educate our members and the public about how best to find the most affordable prescription drugs to suit their needs," said William Novelli, chief executive officer of AARP.

The continuing increases in prices for branded pharmaceuticals are putting enormous pressure on budget-strapped seniors, who struggle to pay for medications. According to AARP, the typical older American, who takes about 3 prescription drugs, "is likely to have experienced an increase, on average, in the cost of therapy from the year 2000 through March 31, 2005, of $866.16," assuming that the manufacturer price increases are passed on to patients.

Kathleen Jaeger, president and chief executive officer of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, hailed the AARP findings as evidence that "generic medicines clearly are the best option for consumers," as well as for government and private sector health care purchasers. "The data support what we have stated for years: generic medicines are improving lives for less," she said.