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Highlights

Prescription drug spending has been the fastest growing segment of national health expenditures. As the federal government assumes greater financial responsibility for prescription drug expenditures with the introduction of Medicare part D, federal policymakers are increasingly concerned about prescription drug prices. GAO was asked to examine the change in retail prices and other pricing benchmarks for drugs frequently used by Medicare beneficiaries and other individuals with health insurance from 2000 through 2004. To examine the change in retail prices from 2000 through 2004, we obtained usual and customary (U&C) prices from two state pharmacy assistance programs for drugs frequently used by Medicare beneficiaries and non-Medicare enrollees in the 2003 Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) Federal Employee Program (FEP). The U&C price is the price an individual without prescription drug coverage would pay at a retail pharmacy. Additionally, we compared the change in U&C prices for brand drugs from 2000 through 2004 to the change in two pricing benchmarks: average manufacturer price (AMP), which is the average of prices paid to manufacturers by wholesalers for drugs distributed to the retail pharmacy class of trade, and average wholesale price (AWP), which represents the average of list prices that a manufacturer suggests wholesalers charge pharmacies.

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