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Amid continued political pressure on the pharmaceutical industry, a new analysis finds that brand-name drug makers increased their wholesale prices by 2.3% in the first quarter of this year, a much smaller boost than 3.2% hike that occurred during the same time a year ago.

Meanwhile, after subtracting allowances such as rebates and discounts, net prices paid by health plans fell by 2.6%, compared with a 3.7% decline in last year’s first quarter, according to SSR Health, which tracks the pharmaceutical industry. Looked at another way, the discounts off wholesale prices reached 50.4%, which is the highest level in a decade. The figures were adjusted for inflation.


The findings largely continue a trend that largely began about five years ago, as drug makers and pharmacy benefit managers began undergoing increasing scrutiny for their opaque pricing practices. The price drops accelerated, though, in 2018 after President Trump began bashing drug makers and Congress began exploring legislation to somehow lower drug costs, which is a big pocketbook issue.

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  • Big fan of everything STAT and particularly Ed’s stuff but I did spot a concern in here. After referencing an overall decrease in net prices that last two years (-2.6%, -3.7%), you refer two separate times (last sentence of paragraph 6, first of paragraph 7) to “higher” or an “increase” in net prices. Was this by mistake or am I missing a more granular point somewhere?

    • Hi Adam,

      Thanks for the note. And good catch. I was moving a little too fast for my own good and reversed the wording. I’ve now updated. Appreciate you writing.

      ed at pharmalot

  • Why is it that the rebates provided by drug companies never passed on directly to those patients taking the drugs? I would be ecstatic if my monthly exceedingly hight cost meds I take for my heart conditions and type 2 diabetes are discounted by 50%! Reduction to my monthly premium for my Medicare supplement Part D plans is peanuts compared to my deductibles and copays! The donut hole has not been addressed at all by the politicians all!

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