Expensive hepatitis C treatments and rising prices overall have rocketed costs in Medicare Part D because some doctors are prescribing millions of dollars in medications, according to ProPublica and NPR. While both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump denounced the rising prices of drugs during the campaign, President-elect Trump has been mostly mum on the subject, according to the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper reports that Trump “appears to have downgraded plans to act aggressively to control rising drug prices…. Trump, who once made the cost of pharmaceuticals a central part of his campaign health care pitch and included the issue on his campaign website, hasn’t mentioned the subject since the election, even though the issue is consistently cited as the top health care problem Americans want to see fixed.”
Meanwhile, the problem continues to get worse. From 2012 to 2015, the number of providers (physicians and nurse practitioners, mostly) who prescribed $5 million worth of drugs increased tenfold, from 41 to 514. In addition, the number of providers who exceeded $10 in drug prescribing jumped from two to 70 in the same period.
Harvoni or Sovaldi, drugs in high demand that cure hepatitis C, were at the top of the list for most high prescribers. Also, drugs for rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and multiple sclerosis top the list. More than 41 million seniors and disabled people are covered by Part D. In 2014, it accounted for $121.5 billion in spending. That shot up to $137.4 billion in 2015.
Physicians, for their part, say that they often have no choice but to prescribe if they want patients to get better. Ben Thrower, MD, is the medical director of the Multiple Sclerosis Institute at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. He also prescribed $11.5 million in multiple sclerosis drugs in 2014. He tells ProPublica and NPR: “We get that it’s very expensive. I think all the MS providers working in the U.S. would like to see the costs go down.”
Source: ProPublica and NPR