Two congressional reports critical of the pharmaceutical industry's pricing policies were released last week, drawing renewed calls for regulation by lawmakers.
The first study was released by the majority staff of the Senate Aging Committee and showed that while in 1993 prescription drug prices rose at the slowest rate in more than 20 years, prices still increased at nearly 16 times the rate of inflation for manufacturing as a whole.
At a press conference to release the report, Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.), the chairman of the Aging Committee, said he would introduce legislation later this year to give incentives to drug manufacturers to lower cost increases including reducing patent protections for new drugs.
Drug prices rose 3.1% in 1993, the report said while the rate of inflation for manufacturers was 0.2%. The re tail rate of infla tion overall was 2.7% that year.
The Pharma ceutical Manufac turers Association said the rate of increase was less than half the in crease in 1992 and showed that market forces, led by large purchasers such as HMOs, were having a dramatic effect on prices.
Mr. Pryor disagreed.
"The findings of this report call into question the ability of the marketplace to contain drug prices," Mr. Pryor said. "I encourage my colleagues to keep this in mind when we craft a healthcare reform proposal during 1994."
The second report, based on a study performed by Congress' General Accounting Office, found that prescription drugs cost an average of 60% less in the United Kingdom than in the United States.
The differences were "primarily due to the regulatory constraints that manufacturers face in pricing their drugs on the U.K. market and to the lack of similar constraints in the United States," the report said.