STAT+: Inflation caused ‘unprecedented’ drops in net pharmaceutical prices, analysis finds

The decline in net pricing is a key — if not wonky — talking point in the larger and contentious debate about the cost of medicines.

Amid ongoing turmoil over the cost of prescription medicines, a new analysis finds that brand-name drugmakers increased their wholesale prices by 4.4% in the last quarter of 2021, up slightly from 3.8% a year earlier. But when accounting for inflation, wholesale prices fell by 2.3%.

At the same time, net prices that health plans paid for medicines — after subtracting rebates, discounts, and fees — dropped by 0.7%. But after considering inflation, net prices actually fell 5.4%. In both instances, these were the largest quarterly declines in real terms in 15 years, according to SSR Health, a research firm that tracks the pharmaceutical industry.

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