Amid continued political pressure on the pharmaceutical industry, a new analysis finds brand-name drug makers increased their wholesale prices by 4.4% in the second quarter of 2021. But when accounting for inflation, wholesale prices fell by 0.4%, compared with 3.6% in real price growth a year earlier.
Meanwhile, after subtracting allowances such as rebates and discounts, net prices that health plans paid for medicines dropped by 1.4%, compared with a 1.8% decline in last year’s second quarter, according to SSR Health, a research firm that tracks the pharmaceutical industry. Drug makers, by the way, argue that net prices — not wholesale prices — are a more realistic way to gauge changes in pricing.
Inflation, though, clearly had a substantial impact. After taking this into account, 49% of prescription medicines declined in price — in real terms after accounting for inflation — in this year’s second quarter versus 25% a year earlier. Notably, 69% of drug makers saw their average wholesale prices drop — again when factoring in inflation — compared with just 2% in the second quarter in 2020.
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