Tag: "drugs"

PPI: Physician Prices Pull Back

BLSDecember’s surprising jump in physician prices looks to have been idiosyncratic. January’s Producer Price Index for physician services declined 0.6 percent, versus a 0.5 percent rise in prices of final demand services. Prices for home health and hospice care increased 0.7 percent on the month. However, other prices for final demand health services were in line with other services inflation.

For final demand goods, prices for pharmaceutical preparations increased 1.6 percent, versus zero change for final demand goods less food and energy. (When the next Consumer Price Index is released on February 19, we will see whether the divergence between pharmaceutical prices in the PPI and CPI continues.) With respect to intermediate demand goods, prices of biologics, including diagnostics, increased 1.1 percent, versus a 1.3 percent decline in prices of processed goods, less foods and feeds.

It does not look like complaints about high and increasing prices for pharmaceuticals and biologics will be going away soon. (See Table I below the fold.)

CPI: Prescription Prices Finally Drop Amid General Deflation

BLSMedical prices grew 0.1 percent, versus a decrease of 0.1 percent for all other items, in December’s Consumer Price Index. Prices for prescription drugs actually decreased 0.3 percent, even better than the small price increase in the Producer Price Index (PPI).

Prices for physicians’ services were flat, however, whereas they had jumped in the PPI. Because CPI measures prices as observed by consumers and PPI prices as observed by producers, this suggests that prices paid to physicians by non-consumers (i.e., third parties) have increased more than prices paid by consumers. This supports the principle that when consumers face prices directly, prices go up less than when intermediated by third parties.

Overall, medical care inflation was tame in December. Longer term, it still significantly outpaced the CPI other than medical care, by two percent over the year (Table I).

Reciprocal Regulatory Approval To Reduce Drug Prices

prescription-drug-shortageSenators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) recently introduced the RESULT Act, which would allow drugs and medical devices approved in certain other countries to be allowed in the U.S. as well. The countries included are European Union members, Israel, Canada, Japan, and Australia.

The benefits of this act would be significant. Professor Daniel Klein of the Mercatus Institute at George Mason University and Professor William L. Davis of the University of Tennessee at Martin have surveyed economists on this policy, and a majority agree it would improve patients’ access to safe and effective drugs.

PPI: Physician Prices Jump Amidst Deflation

BLSThe stock market took a hit this morning, as the Producer Price Index turned back to deflation, dropping 0.2 percent in December and 0.1 percent in 2015 (Table I). Health prices are still growing faster than other prices. This is especially true for pharmaceuticals, for which prices increased 8.2 percent last year, versus a 3.7 percent decline in prices for final demand goods. Although political attacks on pharmaceutical prices are misguided, it is likely they will continue as long as this situation persists.

With respect to services, health price inflation is not as extreme. However, the jump of 1.3 percent for physician prices in December is remarkable.

CPI: Hospitals Under Pressure As Physician Prices Rise

BLSNovember’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) indicates health prices are moderating, though still increasing higher than non-heath consumer goods. In the third piece of bad news for hospitals (from their perspective, at least, after the Quarterly Services Survey and the Producer Price Index), prices for hospital services actually dropped (See Table I).

PPI: Pharmaceutical Prices Finally Tame In November

BLSNovember’s Producer Price Index (PPI) finally saw a slowdown in pharmaceutical price increases, which increased 0.3 percent, month on month. This was the same as the overall PPI increase. Price increases for health goods and services were very slight, compared to general PPI. Indeed, two categories (X-Ray & electromedical equipment and biological products including diagnostics) actually experienced price deflation (see Table I).

Why Are U.S. Prescription Prices Higher?

Variety of Medicine in Pill BottlesJeanne Whalen of the Wall Street Journal has written a feature article comparing U.S. prescription drug prices to those overseas. Unsurprisingly, she find prices in other developed countries lower, and credits government price controls in other countries with (pretty much) all the difference.

A vial of the cancer drug Rituxan cost Norway’s taxpayer-funded health system $1,527 in the third quarter of 2015, while the U.S. Medicare program paid $3,678. An injection of the asthma drug Xolair cost Norway $463, which was 46% less than Medicare paid for it.

Drug prices in the U.S. are shrouded in mystery, obscured by confidential rebates, multiple middlemen and the strict guarding of trade secrets.

The state-run health systems in Norway and many other developed countries drive hard bargains with drug companies: setting price caps, demanding proof of new drugs’ value in comparison to existing ones and sometimes refusing to cover medicines they doubt are worth the cost.

(Jeanne Whalen, “Why the U.S. Pays More Than Other Countries for Drugs,” Wall Street Journal, December 1, 2015)

I do not dispute the facts of the article, but the article’s misidentifying the primary reason why drug prices are different. It actually does a good job of differentiating countries where the state exercises monopsony power over drug purchases (like Norway) and those where the state does not exercise purchasing power, but imposes price controls on al sales (like Canada). It is easy and intuitive to conclude that such government interventions reduce prices. However, contrary evidence shakes that thesis. Relative purchasing power better explains the difference.

CPI: Medical Prices Rose Three Times Faster Than Other Prices; Hospitals Stand Out

BLSOctober’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) confirms medical prices continue to spring ahead of prices for other goods and services. Overall CPI increased 0.2 percent on the month and also 0.2 percent, year on year. Medical prices, on the other hand, increased 0.7 percent on the month and 3.0 percent, year on year (Table I).

20151117 CPI

PPI: Health Prices Continue to Rise Faster Than Others

October’s Producer Price Index declined 0.4 percent, month on month, and dropped 1.6 percent, year on year. Mild deflation continues to take hold in the general economy. However, it is not so in health care. Of the 14 sub-indices for health-related goods and services, only three declined month on month. Only six declined year on year (see Table I).

20151113 PPIa

CPI: Deflation Except In Health Care (Again)

I admitBLS this is getting a little repetitive, but it is not my fault the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases the Consumer Price Index one day after the Producer Price Index. The CPI confirms (once again) the price behavior indicated by yesterday’s PPI.

While consumer prices were down 0.2 percent, month on month, and flat year on year, medical prices increased 0.2 percent and 2.5 percent (Table I). However, prescription drugs experienced quite moderate price increases last month. This means that while prices of medical goods and services overall increased, month on month, there was no sticker shock versus the CPI. Unfortunately, yesterday’s PPI suggests that price increases are flowing through the system again, and we can expect to see a pick-up in health prices versus overall inflation, in future CPIs.