Did Drug Prices Really Decline By a Record Amount in 2018?

Last night President Trump said this:

Already, as a result of my Administration’s efforts, in 2018 drug prices experienced their single largest decline in 46 years.

I’ve been puzzling over this ever since he said it. What does he mean? I assume he means prescription drugs, and most of the fact checkers think his statement is based on a report last October from the Council for Economic Advisers, which contained this chart:

I don’t know if this is correct, but even if it is it only goes back five years. I tried doing a simple look at spending on prescription drugs, but even there I could only find annual data going back to 2000. I gave Trump every chance I could by adjusting for inflation and population growth, but even then I only got this:

Prescription drug spending fell 2.6 percent in 2012, and that’s the biggest drop in the past couple of decades. There’s no data yet for 2018, of course, so it’s not on the chart. It’s also unclear how Trump could have said anything about 2018 since he doesn’t have any data either.

I dunno. I guess he just made it up. But if anyone can clue me in about where he got the idea that drug prices declined more in 2018 than any year since 1972, I’d sure be interested to hear it.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.