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Rx DRUG PRODUCER PRICES RISE 6.4% IN FIRST NINE MONTHS OF 1990, down from a 7.5% inflation rate for the first nine months of 1990, according to the producer price index released Oct. 12 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prescription drug prices at the manufacturer level rose 1.5% in the third quarter of 1989. The 12-month inflation rate from September 1989 to September 1990 was 8.3%. The 1.5% third quarter increase followed a modest rise of 0.1% in the second quarter, historically a moderate period for drug prices, and a 2.8% increase in the first quarter -- the smallest rise in that period in the last 10 years. While the inflation rate for prescription drugs rose by only 0.9% for between August and September, the broader finished goods category zoomed by 20.9% for the month, with BLS pointing to skyrocketing oil and fuel prices as the major factor. For the nine months ending in September, however, the index for finished goods increased 6.3%, about par with the increase for prescription drugs. Hormones led the increase in the PPI for prescription drug categories. Producer prices have fluctuated for this category but jumped a net 22.4% in the first nine months of the year. The lion's share of the nine-month increase came from a 21.9% rise in the third quarter. Producer prices for hormones dropped 9.1% in the second quarter, following a 9.8% increase in the first. Other prescription drug categories with PPI increases of 10% or more from January through September were: CNS stimulants/anti-obesity products (up 14.1%), psychotherapeutics (up 12.7%), tranquilizers (up 17%) and minor tranquilizers (up 12.4%). The only category with a declining PPI through nine months was broad and medium spectrum antibiotics, for which producer prices slipped 0.7%. A 1.2% drop in producer prices in the third quarter erased increases of 0.2% in both the first and second quarters. Producer-level prices for all pharmaceutical preparations (including OTCs, biologics, medicinal chemicals and botanicals in bulk) showed more flexibility (up 1.3%) through nine months than the smaller prescription products category. For example, OTCs edged up only 0.1%.