On drug pricing, the President’s numbers are still off

On drug pricing, the President’s numbers are still off

During the 2020 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump zeroed in on prescription drug prices, arguing that his administration is "taking on the big pharmaceutical companies." Among the evidence for that claim: a talking point the administration has been using since last April. "I was pleased to announce last year that, for the first time in 51 years, the cost of prescription drugs actually went down," Trump said. We've examined this claim twice before, rating it Mostly False . But prescription drug prices are a major voter concern. So we wanted to take another look, in case things had changed. Experts told us the data remains essentially unchanged. Drug prices are still not going down. The old talking point Last spring, Trump's team pulled this claim from two sources: a 2018 report from the president's Council of Economic Advisers and data comparing the January 2019 Consumer Price Index for drugs to that of January 2018. The CPI data suggested a decline in drug prices. But when we spoke to experts, they quickly debunked this position. For one thing, CPI data is imperfect — it shows list prices, rather than what consumers pay at the pharmacy counter. For another, it covers only drugs sold through retail, which accounts for about three-quarters of all prescriptions. That misses high-priced specialty drugs that are sold only through the mail. Plus, other metrics showed that drug prices had, in fact, gone up, although by very little. Last April, for instance, the same CPI data indicated an increase — between April 2018 and April 2019, drug prices had increased by 0.3%. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation also suggested an increase in total spending on drug prices that year, even if growth had slowed. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) What's changed? Today, prices aren't going up as fast as they were before, said Stacie Dusetzina, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University who studies drug pricing. But they're still going up. Related Stories



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