Claiming prescription drug costs have risen nearly twice as much as income depends primarily on cash


The cost of prescription drugs in the United States has long been a hot topic for voters.

On July 9, 2021, Joe Biden signed an executive order to enact “aggressive legislative reforms” that would lower prescription drug prices. He promised to do so during the election campaign.

In Wisconsin, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, a Democratic candidate for the US Senate, addressed a similar theme. She hopes to face U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican, in November 2022.

“The skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs is plaguing Wisconsin residents and hurting Americans in every corner of the country. As drug companies reap record profits, people are skipping pills to make their prescriptions last a little longer, while others must choose between their groceries and their lifesaving drugs,” Godlewski said in a Feb. 18, 2022 campaign statement “Here in Wisconsin, prescription drug costs have risen at nearly twice the rate higher than Wisconsinite’s average income from 2015 to 2019.”

The last part of Godlewski’s claim caught our attention.

Have prescription drug costs increased at almost twice the rate of the average Wisconsinan’s income?

We’ll take a look.

Resident income

When asked to back up Godlewski’s claim, his campaign team quoted an AARP article headline “Prescription drug costs are rising almost twice as fast as incomes of Wisconsin residents” . AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization active on issues that affect people 50 and older.

The average annual cost of prescription drug therapy increased 26.3% between 2015 and 2019, while the annual income of Wisconsin residents increased only 13.9%,” AARP reported.

But an audit of the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey shows the median income of Wisconsin residents rose 15.2%, from $55,638 in 2015 to $64,168 in 2019.

Why the gap?

The 13.9% increase applies to residents over the age of 50, while the 15.3% increase applies to all residents.

So, Godlewski was generally on target, but went a little over the mark in his phrasing.

Learn more about drug costs

In Wisconsin, according to the 2020 “Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug Price Reduction,” prescription drugs are estimated to have cost residents more than $1.3 billion in total in 2019.

Meanwhile, an AARP chart – “Impact of High Rx Prices to Wisconsin Residents” – looked at the price increase of three specific drugs between 2015 and 2020:

  • Revlimid, a cancer treatment, went from $185,574 to $267,583, up 44%

  • Victoza, a diabetes treatment, went from $7,936 to $11,300, up 42%

  • Spiriva inhaler, used for asthma and COPD, rose from $3,886 to $5,289, up 36%

The report went on to say that the retail prices of 76% of the most widely used brand name prescription drugs (198 of 260) increased in price in 2020 – and 92% of those price increases (183 of 198) were higher than the general inflation rate in 2002, which was 1.3%.

Separately, a February 25, 2022 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health issues, found that prices had risen faster than inflation for half of all covered drugs. by Medicare in 2020.

Our decision

Godlewski said that “in Wisconsin, prescription drug costs increased at a rate nearly twice the average Wisconsinite income from 2015 to 2019.”

The average annual cost of prescription drug treatment increased by 26.3% over this period. The increase in income for all Wisconsin residents was actually 15.2%. The figure cited by Godlewski is for people aged 50 and over, whose income increased by 13.9%.

For an exact statement but requiring clarification or additional information, our rating is generally true.

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