A congressional report out this week reveals that prices for brand name drugs being prescribed to American seniors have increased at 10 times the rate of inflation in recent years.
The report, “Manufactured Crisis: How devastating drug price increases are harming America’s seniors,” takes a look at the cost associated with the 20 most commonly prescribed drugs under Medicare part D from 2012 to 2017.
Here are a few key takeaways:
- Prices increased for every brand-name drug of the top 20 most-prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors in the last five years. On average, prices for these drugs increased 12 percent every year for the last five years—approximately ten times higher than the average annual rate of inflation.
- Twelve out of the 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors had their prices increased by over 50 percent in the five-year period. Six of the 20 had prices increases of over 100 percent. In one case, the weighted average wholesale acquisition cost for a single drug increased by 477 percent over a five-year period.
- Although 48 million fewer prescriptions were written for the top 20 most commonly prescribed brand-name drugs for seniors between 2012 and 2017, total sales revenue resulting from these prescriptions increased by almost $8.5 billion during the same period.
Nitrostat, a drug used to relieve chest pain, had the highest cost increase at 477 percent.
Congressional Democrats are using the report to push for reforms that would make it easier for Medicare to negotiate drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry.
“Can you imagine if you went to an auto dealership and last year’s exact model was being sold at a 20 percent mark-up, and then you went back the next year and it had happened again?” Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said. “That’s exactly what’s happening in the prescription drug industry, where the cost of identical drugs skyrockets year after year.
But Big Pharma claims further government action to curtail drug cost is unnecessary.
“This is yet another misleading report that ignores the robust negotiation that occurs between Medicare Part D plans, middlemen and biopharmaceutical companies,” Juliet Johnson, a spokeswoman for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement. “Negotiated rebates can reduce list prices by as much as 30 to 70 percent for medicines used to treat diabetes, high cholesterol, and chronic respiratory illnesses. Notably, half of the 20 brand medicines in this report are used to treat these chronic conditions.”
Either way, with so many alternative medicine options available for many of the illnesses these drugs treat, there’s never been a better time to invest in researching alternatives to big pharma medication.