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Prescription price shock: OSU/OHSU study takes drug industry to task
















































Lead author Dan Hartung's study found that one drug that originally cost $8,700 now tops $62,000.

Drugs for treating multiple sclerosis have skyrocketed 700 percent in the past 20 years, even as newer drugs have come on the market, according to a study out today from researchers at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University.

“New drugs came on the market 30 to 50 percent higher than existing therapies, which ratcheted up their prices to meet the prices of the new drugs,” said Dan Hartung, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy.

First-generation drugs from the 1990s ranged from $8,000 to $10,000 a year. Today, all MS drugs cost at least $50,000 a year, well above inflation, Hartung said. One drug that originally cost $8,700 now tops $62,000.

The study highlights an industry driven by profits, using non-transparent pricing policies, and to a healthcare system that places no limits on the escalation. Also, many “biologics,” or specialty drugs, don’t come in cheaper generic forms.

The end result? Another industry that’s “too big to fail,” the authors assert.

The study also compared the U.S. to other countries. MS drugs here cost two to three times the list prices in Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom, where the governments purchase medications directly from vendors.

“We in the U.S. just tolerate high prices more than other countries with single-payer systems, who are able to say, ‘We’re able to pay this much and not be price takers,’” Hartung said.

Medicare, the largest single-payer system in the U.S., is prohibited by law from negotiating prices directly with the industry. Only pharmacy benefits managers can negotiate, “but they don’t have nearly the clout,” Hartung said.

Pharmaceutical companies argue that they need to cover the incredibly high cost of R&D for new drugs, which can cost $1 billion to $2 billion to bring to market.

“I’m not sure where to draw the line between what’s a reasonable rate of return versus profiteering,” Hartung said. “If you look at their bottom line, it’s well above other industries, even the oil industry. They’re making their money back.”
Gilead made $10 billion from Sovaldi, the $1,000 per pill hepatitis-C drug, last year, Hartung said.

The research was published today in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by PORTLANDBUSINESSJOURNAL
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length

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