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Crazy Drug Pricing Again

By August 30, 2019Commentary

Can’t let a week go by without highlighting more research on abusive drug pricing.  This time it relates to self-administered multiple sclerosis drugs.  This is a very difficult disease and there have been several new treatments in recent years which offer better outcomes for patients.  Since 2009, seven new agents have been approved, so you might think there would be more competition, which usually means lower prices.  But as usual, the drug companies look to extract every last dime for their products.  A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Neurology tracks trends in pricing for multiple sclerosis drugs for Medicare beneficiaries in Part D plans.   (JAMA Study)    In 2009, the average per year per patient cost for multiple sclerosis drugs was $18660. By 2016 that had risen to $75847, or more than four times, or an annualized increase of 12.8%.  Spending per beneficiary went from $7794 to $79411, or a rise of more than ten times; while out-of-pocket costs grew seven-fold, from a manageable $372 annually to a more crushing $2673.

I don’t know what more to say.  I am, to say the least, disappointed in the pricing behavior of drug manufacturers.  It has no cost basis.  I am disappointed also in the behavior of physicians, who probably are too swayed by medication marketing and often prescribe newer, more expensive compounds that may or may not offer meaningful improvement over cheaper existing ones; and who don’t do enough to push back against prices.  And I am disappointed, sort of, because what else would you expect, by the behavior of legislators and policymakers, who constantly talk about the issue but do absolutely nothing to address it.  Wonder if all those contributions and lobbying have anything to do with that?  Someday, maybe.  In the meantime, I am not going to stop talking about it.

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