Prescription drug prices went down in February but will no doubt rise again

drug prices photoPhoto © Shutterstock

It hasn’t happened in 47 years so you may not believe it — but the government’s monthly Consumer Price Index says that prescription drug prices actually declined in February. OK, it wasn’t by very much, just 1.0 percent. But on a year-to-year basis, prices are off 1.2 percent, the biggest annual declined since 1972.

The surprise decline is widely attributed to the heat drug companies have been feeling from President Trump and other politicians, all of whom have vowed to do something — though no one knows just what — to reduce drug prices.

But don’t get used to February’s lower prices. Most experts quoted by financial publications say they expect the decline to be just a blip and it’s likely drug prices will continue their steady creep skyward in March.

It wasn’t just drug prices that went down. The CPI’s medical care index declined in February, falling 0.2 percent after rising
in each of the five previous months. Besides the prescription drug price index falling 1.0 percent,the index for hospital services decreased 0.7 percent. In contrast, the physicians’ services index rose 0.1 percent.


February’s decrease isn’t quelling consumer protests about rising drug prices. AARP is trying to rally its 37.8 million members to tell Congress it’s time to act. The organization of older people today announced the launch of ‘Stop Rx Greed,’ an effort to drive down drug prices for all Americans by advocating for a variety of legislative, executive, and regulatory actions at both the federal and state level.

“Stop Rx Greed”

“Americans are paying the highest prescription drug prices in the world,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer Nancy LeaMond. “It’s time for pharmaceutical companies to stop deflecting blame and acknowledge that the root cause is the price they set for their products.”

As part of the campaign, AARP Research conducted a national survey of likely voters ages 50 and older. The survey found that significant majorities of self-identified Republican, Democrat, and independent voters shared concerns about the high price of drugs, and support common-sense policies that will lower prices. Survey findings include:

  • 72 percent say they are concerned about the cost of their medications.
  • 63 percent say the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable.
  • 90 percent support allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.
  • 80 percent report taking at least one prescription medication.
  • Nearly 40 percent say they did not fill a prescription provided by their doctor with cost being the most common reason.

The Stop Rx Greed campaign will include national television, radio and digital ads, editorial content, emails to members, social media posts, ongoing advocacy and grassroots activity in D.C. and the states, and a petition calling on Congress and the Administration to take action now. As part of the campaign, AARP will push for support of a number of policy solutions at the national and state level to help lower drug prices, including:

  • Allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.
  • Allowing states to negotiate lower prices with drug companies.
  • Giving state Attorneys General authority to crack down on outrageous price increases.
  • Clamping down on pay-for-delay and other loopholes that keep lower cost generic drugs off the market.
  • Capping consumers’ prescription drug out-of-pocket costs.
  • Preserving state pharmacy assistance programs.

“There’s no one solution that’s going to solve this issue,” said John Hishta, AARP Senior Vice President of Campaigns. “Success will be when consumers are no longer price gouged by the drug industry and can afford the drugs they need.”

For more about Stop Rx Greed, visit www.aarp.org/rx.

About the Author

Truman Lewis
Truman has been a bureau chief and correspondent in D.C., Los Angeles, Phoenix and elsewhere, reporting for radio, television, print and news services, for more than 30 years. Most recently, he has reported extensively on health and consumer issues for ConsumerAffairs.com and FairfaxNews.com.