In the first half of 2019, the consumer price index for prescription drugs fell by 0.8% compared to the first half of 2018. That’s the first year-over-year decline in prescription drug prices since the mid-1970s, according to BLS data.
Looking at five-year inflation rates, the consumer price index for prescription drugs rose at a 2.7% rate from 2014 to 2019, based on the first six months of this year (see chart below). This represents the slowest rate of prescription drug inflation in forty years, according to BLS data.
We also note that prescription drug inflation is now only slightly above core CPI inflation, which is running at a 2.0% pace from 2014-2019.
That doesn’t let the pharma industry off the hook for the behavior of bad actors, especially as we learn more about the opioid epidemic. But it does suggest that the problem of drug pricing may be a bit more complicated than it seems.