AP FACT CHECK: Trump cites drug-price drop that isn't

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR and HOPE YENFeaturesAssociated Press

President Donald Trump is misstating the facts when it comes to prescription drug prices.

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Speaking Monday at a White House dinner, he cited a remarkable drop in prescription drug prices. But a government index that had registered some declines is now showing an increase again. Some experts say more increases are likely.

A look at the claim:

TRUMP: "Drug prices have gone down for the first time in 51 years — they've gone down. First time in 51 years."

THE FACTS: The president appeared to be referring to recent decreases in the Labor Department's Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs, touted by the administration. But the CPI was updated Friday, before Trump's latest claim, and it showed an increase of 0.3% in April for prescription drug prices, when compared with the same month last year.

The index tracks a set of medications, both brand drugs and generics.

Other independent studies point to increasing prices for brand name drugs as well and more overall spending on medications.

An analysis of brand-name drug prices by The Associated Press showed 2,712 price increases in the first half of January, compared with 3,327 increases during the same period last year. However, the size of this year's increases was not as pronounced.

Both this year and last, the number of price cuts was minuscule. The information for the analysis was provided by the health data firm Elsevier.

An analysis by Altarum, a nonprofit research and consulting firm, found that in 2018, spending on prescription drugs was one of the main factors behind a 4.5% increase in U.S. health spending. Spending on prescription drugs grew much faster than in 2017, according to the study.

Economist Paul Hughes-Cromwick of Altarum, said he expects drug prices will continue to creep up.

"I would be quite surprised if by July the annual rate doesn't return to a more normal 2%-4% growth," said Hughes-Cromwick.

Hughes-Cromwick said the government's inflation index can bounce around from month to month. If White House economic advisers "want to live by favorable months," he said, "they'd better be ready to die by the less favorable ones."

The government estimates the nation's health care tab hit $3.6 trillion last year, or about 18% of the economy.

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