Specialty drugs now cost more than the median household income

By:  Carolyn Y. Johnson

The average annual retail cost of specialty drugs used to treat complex diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis now exceeds the median U.S. household income, according to a report to be published Friday.

The study of 115 specialty drugs found that a year's worth of prescriptions for a single drug retailed at $53,384 per year, on average, in 2013 -- more than the median U.S. household income, double the median income of Medicare beneficiaries, and more than three times as much as the average Social Security benefit in the same year. The report was prepared by the AARP Public Policy Institute to highlight the impact of drug prices on seniors.

"We're talking about drugs that are now costing more than a lot of people are making in a year," said Leigh Purvis, director of health services research at the AARP Public Policy Institute.

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