Gladwell really ripped on The New York Times for their story on pharmaceutical prices, with the headline "Drug Prices Up Sharply." The Times story covered the 3.9% increase in prescription drug prices over the first three months of the year. But, as Gladwell points out:
It isn't until you read a little closer that you realize that the price increase just refers to brand-name pharmaceutical prices.Â And what the article never mentions at all is that the AARP released a second study yesterday, showing that generic drug costs in the United States were unchanged in the first quarter and fell 0.1 percent over the past year.Â Â Here is the key paragraph from the AARP report, which—unbelievably—never made it into the Times piece:Â
"The rate of increase in average annual change in manufacturer's list price for generic prescription drugs most widely used by older Americans was about one quarter the rate of general inflation for 2005."
Very strange. Gladwell then gives specific examples like Prozac, which costs $434 for 100 pills at 10mg. The same dosage of the Prozac generic, Fluoxetine, is $55. Gladwell acknowledges that not every major prescription drug has a generic available and that not every generic is identical to the major names. But he points out that those exceptionsÂ are becoming less common.
Here's how he closes:
The Times' lead read:Â Â "Prices of the most widely used prescription drugs rose sharply in this year's first quarter."Â Wrong, wrong, wrong.Â Â It should have read:Â Â "Prices of the most widely used prescription drugs fell last year."
It's definitely a post worth reading.