PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Prices Rise Faster in Q4
Prices for prescription drugs were up 3.9% in the fourth quarter of 1998, "far outdistancing the inflation rate of 1.5%," the href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/businessnews/article/0,1051,SAV-9903010022,00.html">AP/Chicago Tribune reports. IMS Health reported that the rate of increase is itself picking up steam: prices rose just 3.4% in both the second and the third quarters. Leading the pack were "brand name drugs sold in retail stores, which rose 4.7%." IMS attributed much of the increase to slower-than-expected declines in generic drug prices, which only fell 0.3% in the quarter, compared to 5% a year earlier (3/1). "It seems the generic drug industry can no longer sustain the large price decreases of the past," said Martin Glogowski, IMS's vice president of marketing. While such overall price increases for prescription drugs often do not affect consumers in health plans, who pay only co-pays for prescriptions, Congress is currently wrestling with ways to ease the burden on seniors, who must usually pay for drugs out of pocket. IMS also reports that drug sales in dollars rose by 16.8% in the quarter, the same rate as one year ago. The increase was fueled not so much by price increases as by consumer demand for new drugs and new uses for old drugs, according to the report (Galewitz, AP/Contra Costa Times, 2/26).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.