[Ip-health] WaPo: Prescription drug prices jumped more than 10 percent in 2015, analysis finds

Andrew S. Goldman andrew.goldman at keionline.org
Mon Jan 11 10:48:18 PST 2016


Prescription drug prices jumped more than 10 percent in 2015, analysis finds

By Brady Dennis January 11 at 9:11 AM

Drug prices were big news in 2015, thanks in large part to “Pharma bro”
Martin Shkreli, who drew outrage for hiking the price of a life-saving drug
by 5,000 percent. Such eye-popping increases were rare. But plenty of drugs
became more expensive during the past year.

How much did prescription drug prices rise overall in 2015?

More than 10 percent — well in excess of the U.S. inflation rate —
according to an analysis released Monday by Truveris, a health-care data
company that tracks drug prices. The firm analyzes data involving hundreds
of millions of payments that public and private insurers, businesses and
patients make each year to U.S. pharmacies. The result is an index that
measures the average price of prescription drugs, driven by the most
commonly prescribed medications.

“We’re in our third year of double-digit [increases],” said A.J. Loiacono,
the firm’s chief innovation officer, adding that the increases occurred
across virtually every drug category. “Double-digit inflation is
concerning. I don’t care if it’s for gas or food; it’s rare.”

Truveris found that over the past year, the price of branded drugs — those
still on patent — rose 14.77 percent. Specialty drugs, which often are used
to treat complex or rare conditions and tend to carry high price tags, rose
9.21 percent. Even generic drugs, which historically have tended to get
cheaper over time, rose 2.93 percent.

Nearly every class of drugs experienced an uptick in prices, Loiacono said,
but some conditions saw bigger bumps than others. Drugs that treat the
symptoms of menopause, for example, rose nearly 34 percent last year. Those
that treat gout: 33 percent. Medications for erectile dysfunction: 20

Despite the growing public spotlight on the cost of prescription drugs,
Monday’s analysis showed that price increases during 2015 were roughly
similar to those the year before. In 2014, according to Truveris, Americans
saw a 10.9 percent increase in the cost of prescription medications, also
across nearly every drug class.

Last month, the federal government calculated that prescription drug
spending hit $297.7 billion in 2014 — part of the country's $3 trillion in
health spending. That's a jump of more than 12 percent, the largest annual
increase in more than a decade. A new generation of specialized drugs and
price increases on existing medications helped to drive that spike, and
officials have predicted that annual spending on medications will grow 6.3
percent on average through 2024.

The pharmaceutical industry has long maintained that drug costs represent
only a fraction of overall health costs in the country, that groundbreaking
treatments such as new drugs for hepatitis C will save money over the long
term and that innovative medications take many years — and billions of
dollars — to develop. In addition, generic drugs account for nearly 90
percent of all U.S. prescriptions.

Shkreli is now fighting securities fraud charges, and he has resigned from
the company he was leading when he raised the cost of an antiparasitic drug
to $750 from $13.50 per pill. But from the halls of Congress to the
presidential campaign trail, the much broader issue of drugs costs in the
United States is unlikely to fade in 2016.

Some drug companies seem to recognize that fact and already are doing their
best to remain beneath the radar in the coming year.

Loiacono said data from the last quarter of 2015 already shows a slowing in
the price increases of many drugs. He expects some of that caution to carry
over into 2016.

“They are being sensitive to this issue,” he said of manufacturers. “They
are aware a lot of people are watching.”

Andrew S. Goldman
Counsel, Policy and Legal Affairs
Knowledge Ecology International
andrew.goldman at keionline.org // www.twitter.com/ASG_KEI
tel.: +1.202.332.2670

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