Prescription Drug Costs Doubled In The Past Seven Years

A new study found the average cost of prescription drugs more than doubled over a seven-year period, making it increasingly difficult for seniors and others needing medicine to afford their medications.

A 2016 RxPrice Watch report released by senior citizens advocacy group AARP on Feb. 29 found the average price of a year’s supply of prescription drugs rose from $5,571 in 2006 to $11,341 in 2013, according to The Associated Press. The study tracked the average retail price of 622 prescription medications commonly used by seniors, and indicated that prices are most likely going to continue to rise at similar rates.

Leigh Purvis, director of health services research in AARP's Public Policy Institute, told AP these prices are unaffordable for many retirees, who have low incomes and limited savings. The average Social Security benefit in 2013 was $15,526, meaning seniors living solely off Social Security would have to dedicate around 75 percent of their income to prescription medication.

"Our concern with the prices we're seeing is that the overall trend is really accelerating," Purvis told AP.

Several factors have contributed to the sharp increase in drug prices, which jumped 9.4 percent in 2013 alone -- a figure that comes out to six times the 2013 general inflation rate. Specialty drugs for illnesses such as cancer, hepatitis C and rare diseases were partially behind the increase, costing an average of $53,384 in 2013. This figure is 18 times the average annual cost for a brand-name drug and 189 times the average cost of a generic drug.

Another contributing factor is the increased cost of generic drugs, which make up 7 out of 8 prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. Generic and off-brand drug prices began rising in 2012, mainly due to low profit margins and mergers between drug companies.

These rising prices have had an adverse effect on people struggling to cover the cost of their medications, especially for those with multiple prescriptions. A poll released by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation in August 2015 found that 43 percent of Americans in poor health and 23 percent of Americans overall were having trouble paying for their medicines.

Sources: AP, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation / Photo credit: Charles Williams/Flickr

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