Focus Point - Drug Prices

Commentary by

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. During the election, both major candidates touted prescription drug spending plans with the fervor of cold war warriors urging more money for national defense. But before the next administration goes crazy, it should check out a story in the November 6 Business Week.

Part of the rationale for a high-dollar federal program is that drug costs are so high. And it's true, but not because evil pharmaceutical companies have driven up prices. It's because we're taking more pills. We're spending double on drugs what we did in 1990, but the prices for existing drugs, as opposed to newly intorduced drugs, have risen at a paltry 2.8 percent average annual rate.

Meanwhile, annual usage was up 32 percent between 1992 and 1998 to 10 perscriptions per person, and more than four-fifths of the spending increase reflects that greater use of drugs, combined with a shift to newer, more expensive medications.

So yes, our drug bill has gone up -- because we wanted to take advantage of new technology.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, a final thought -- I promise -- on the election.