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High Drug Costs

Posted 9/7/2016

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  We are all aware of rising costs for drugs, and some of us have been really hammered by the problem. It is not just cancer drugs although some of the new targeted therapies cost thousands and thousands of dollars per cycle and actually provide a small, if any, benefit over some older good therapies. We all are dealing with higher co-pays and higher deductibles and increasing pressure from insurance companies on physicians to prescribe drug A rather than more expensive drug B for the same problem.

  We all know that drugs cost more in the US than anywhere in the world. Remember the outrage several years ago when it became apparent that many people were ordering drugs from Canada and paying much less than they would at their local pharmacy? Knowing this, I was still shocked to read that drug prices in the US have risen 164% in the last seven years, greatly topping the general consumer price index  increase of 12% over the same period. And here's another jaw-dropping statistic: brand name drug make up 10% of all dispensed prescriptions in the US but make up 72% of the total spending on drugs.

  Want to read more:

Can anything contain U.S. drug costs?
By Lisa Rapaport
(Reuters Health) - The U.S., which spends more on drugs than any other country, might contain costs by limiting market exclusivity for brand name medicines and changing coverage requirements for government health plans, some doctors argue.

Although brand-name drugs account for only 10 percent of all dispensed prescriptions in the U.S., they make up 72 percent of drug spending, doctors note in a paper in JAMA.

Between 2008 and 2015, prices for the most commonly used brand name drugs surged 164 percent in the U.S., far outstripping the 12 percent gain in the consumer price index, which measures what people pay for retail goods, Dr. Aaron Kesselheim of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston and colleagues point out in the paper.

“High prescription drug prices in the U.S. are due to a combination of the market exclusivity given to pharmaceutical manufacturers by patents and other U.S. laws that protect them from direct competition for years - potentially over a decade -after the drugs are first marketed, as well as limitations on payors’ ability to negotiate effectively either because they are restricted to do so by law or because there is not enough good comparative effectiveness information available,” Kesselheim said by email.


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