Report: Major Pharma Companies Hiked Prices on Commonly Used Drugs

Consumers, employers, and health programs hit with billions of dollars in added costs

Major drug companies implemented big price increases in the U.S.—in some cases more than doubling listed charges—for widely used medications during the past five years, according to an exclusive report from Reuters. Prices for four of the nation’s top 10 drugs increased more than 100% since 2011, and six others jumped more than 50%, the news agency found. Price increases on drugs for arthritis, hypercholesterolemia, asthma, and other common health problems added billions of dollars in costs for consumers, employers, and government health programs.

Two small companies, Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, have drawn attention to questionable pricing practices. Turing expected to rake in $200 million by raising the price of pyrimethamine (Daraprim), an old antiparasitic drug, by 5,000%, according to company documents released by Congressional investigators.

At the top of Reuter’s list is AbbVie, which raised the price of the arthritis drug adalimumab (Humira) more than 126%. Next are Amgen and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which increased the prices of the arthritis treatment etanercept (Enbrel) and the multiple sclerosis drug glatiramer acetate (Copaxone) by 118% each. According to Reuters, the increases help explain federal data showing that overall spending on drugs increased faster than doctor visits and hospitalizations during the past five years.

Reuters’ analysis of the top 10 drugs was based on 2014 sales figures from IMS Health and on proprietary pricing data provided by Truven Health Analytics. Reuters shared its methods and findings with the eight companies that sell the top 10 drugs; none disputed the results, the news agency said.

In general, drug companies said they set prices to recoup investments in failed drugs, to support new research and development efforts, and to pay for clinical trials to broaden the use of approved drugs. Moreover, they said, medications prevent costly hospitalizations.

In addition, some of the companies noted that Reuters’ analysis of list prices failed to capture negotiated discounts and rebates––closely guarded information.

On the other hand, pharmacy benefit managers told Reuters that they pay annual price increases of up to 10% on the most commonly used medications, even after discounts. By comparison, the U.S. consumer price index rose an average of 2% annually over the last five years.

In addition to adalimumab, etanercept, and glatiramer, Reuters’ list of drugs with the biggest price hikes since December 31, 2010, includes rosuvastatin (Crestor, AstraZeneca), which saw a 113% increase; aripiprazole (Abilify, Otsuka; 96%); insulin glargine injection (Lantus Solostar, Sanofi; 94%); fluticasone/salmeterol (Advair Diskus, GlaxoSmithKline, 67%); infliximab (Remicade, Johnson & Johnson; 63%); pegfilgrastim (Neulasta, Amgen; 55%); and esomeprazole (Nexium, AstraZeneca; 54%).

Source: Reuters; April 4, 2016.