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Executive Summary

Rx PHARMACEUTICAL PRICES INCREASED 4.1% IN FIRST QUARTER 1992, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics released April 9. During the first quarter of last year, the producer price index for the prescription drug category rose only 2%, the lowest level in 11 years. For all of 1991, the BLS Producer Price Index increase for pharmaceutical manufacturer prices was 7.2%. The first quarter drug price inflation rate considerably outpaced general price patterns in the economy. In the broader finished goods category tracked by the BLS figures, prices increased .7% from December levels. Figures are subject to revision by BLS four months after publication. The uptick in the inflation rate for pharmaceuticals is noteworthy in light of the recent commitments by a number of major companies to hold average price increases at about 4%. The perception, backed by industry-watcher data, has been that company responses to congressional drug pricing pressures have resulted in a moderation in drug price increases. Tranquilizers registered the largest first quarter price increase at the manufacturer level among the 44 pharmaceutical categories and subcategories tracked by the PPI, with a gain of 28.2%. Tranquilizers are a subcategory of psychotherapeutics, which had an overall price increase of 20.1% for the three months. Within the same category, producer prices for anti-depressants rose 6.1% during the quarter. Price levels for the psychotherapeutic category were down 4.2% last year. Prices for anti-arthritics also showed great price flexibility during the quarter, rising 11.9% from December 1991 levels. That increase surpasses price growth in the category for all of 1991 -- 10.2%. Over the last 12 months, anti-arthritic prices have risen 21.7%, the PPI indicates. Non-prescription drug prices registered virtually no increase during the first quarter. Price levels for biologicals climbed 2.6% for the three months.

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