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Pharmacy costs for generic medicines trended lower in Q4

The average aggregate per-unit price retail pharmacies pay for generic medicines was lower in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a review of the National Average Drug Acquisition Cost survey.

The three-month period that ended Dec. 31, 2018, saw generic medicine prices fall by roughly 2%. However, prices in December ticked back up slightly. Brand named medicines essentially remained flat during the quarter, as companies pledged not to raise prices for the remainder of year amid pressure from Congress and the Trump administration.

The largest reported increase from an individual medication over the past several months was the 160-milligram dosage of the blood pressure medication valsartan, a medicine that has been recalled by several manufacturers. The average per-unit price of the tablet grew to 37 cents or 161.2% higher than the price listed on the Sept. 26, 2018, weekly National Average Drug Acquisition Cost, or NADAC, report. Two additional dosages of valsartan, 80-milligram and 40-milligram, more than doubled during the quarter, as per-unit price was up 139.9% and 101%, respectively.

Generic blood pressure drugs bisoprolol fumarate, enalapril-hydrochlorothiazide and benazepril-hydrochlorothiazide also had significant price increases in the period. One hypertension medicine, nadolol, saw its price decline.

The price of Arimidex, a prescription hormonal treatment used by breast cancer patients, on a per-unit basis rose to $39.66 from its previous per-unit price of $16.79 in November 2018. ANI Pharmaceuticals Inc. bought the U.S. rights to the drug from AstraZeneca PLC in December 2017. Arimidex's generic counterpart, anastrozole, increased just 3% to 13 cents.

The NADAC survey tracks what retail community pharmacies pay for outpatient prescription and over-the-counter medicines covered by Medicaid, the U.S. health insurance program for low-income Americans.

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