Prices Soar for U.S.’ Most Popular Drugs

A new study from JAMA Network Open indicated that prices for all but one of the best-selling brand name drugs in the U.S. increased substantially from 2012-2017, regardless of their time on the market or existence of a generic version.

Researchers looked at 49 drugs with annual sales of more than $500 million in U.S. or $1 billion worldwide, as well as 100,000 pharmacy claims from private insurers. They found that the median increase in insurer and out-of-pocket patient costs for these medications was 76% over the six-year period.

Thirty-six of the 49 drugs didn’t become available until 2012, yet prices for 16 of them more than doubled during the study period. Price increases occurred at least once, and sometimes twice, per year.

The researchers concluded that if previous trends hold, costs for best-selling drugs will double every seven to eight years. Nathan Wineinger, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California, called the findings disheartening. “There seems to be little evidence that a new blockbuster drug entering the market would not continue along this course,” he told STAT.

A limitation of the study, noted by its authors, is that the data did not reflect rebates. Such information is confidential, varies by drug and payer, and cannot be tied to individual pharmacy claims.

Source: STAT, May 31, 2019; Wineinger N, Zhang Y, Topol E. Trends in prices of popular brand-name prescription drugs in the United States. JAMA Network Open. 2019 May 31.