En español | WASHINGTON—Retail prices for 180 widely used specialty prescription drugs increased by an average of 4.8% in 2020, more than three times the rate of general inflation for that same period (1.3%), according to AARP’s latest Rx Price Watch Report. This category generally includes drugs that are used to treat complex, chronic conditions and require special administration or handling. Last year the average annual cost for one specialty medication used on a chronic basis was $84,442 – but it would have been only $39,068 if retail price changes for these drugs had been limited to the rate of inflation from 2006 to 2020.
“The cost for one specialty medication used on a chronic basis is now nearly three times the average annual income for someone on Medicare,” said Debra Whitman, Executive Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer at AARP. “These enormous prices tags are driving prescription medications out of reach for many older adults, forcing them to choose between the medicines they need and other essentials like rent and food.”
AARP’s analysis did not include five widely used specialty drugs that had unusually high prices and/or an extremely large one-time price increase during the study period. Had they been included, the average cost of a specialty drug would have been $136,401 in 2020. This is more than twice the median U.S. household income of $65,712.
“The excessively high prices and price increases we see each year for specialty drugs are not sustainable,” said Leigh Purvis, Director Health Care Costs and Access, AARP Public Policy Institute, and co-author of the report. “While specialty prescription drugs can provide substantial health benefits, those benefits are only available if people can afford to use them.”
AARP is calling on Congress to pass legislation this year that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, put a cap on out-of-pocket costs that older adults pay for their prescription drugs and impose penalties on drug companies that raise prices faster than the rate of inflation.
To view “Rx Price Watch Report: Trends in Retail Prices of Specialty Prescription Drugs Widely Used by Older Americans, 2006 to 2020” visit www.aarp.org/rxpricewatch.
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AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.