Medication prices continue to be a major concern for many Americans.  Recent months have seen a deluge of stories of drugs with $100,000+ price tags.  A 2015 poll found that a third of patients saw a price increase in their medications last year.  The problem is that these price increases have different causes, making it difficult to solve all the issues.

With advances in science we have seen development of new, highly successful drugs sometimes costing as much as $1000 per pill.  These prices are often seen as justified when researchers look at the benefits of a curative versus the potential long-term cost of living with a condition and less effective treatments.  This is frequently called “value pricing.” The companies that develop these drugs reap profits for the medications patent life (typically 7-12 years) until generic medications are able to enter the market at more affordable prices. The question that remains is whether these exceedingly high prices and several years of wait are worth some patients not being able to afford a medication that could cure them.

The problems of expensive effective brand-name drugs

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It is no secret that drug prices continue to be a problem in the United States. In a previous blog post, we discussed the environment in which skyrocketing drug prices are allowed to take off.  It has continued to be an important subject to Americans and the ongoing presidential campaigns.  The growing issue of medications costs is punctuated with head-spinning facts such as drugs that are $1,000 per pill in the US costing as little as $4 in India, or the life-expectancy is higher in Costa Rica than the United States despite higher income and amount spent on healthcare by Americans.  Some insurance companies are beginning to fight back against pharmaceutical companies pricing by dropping expensive drugs from their covered medications.

The strategy to drop expensive drugs from their formularies was established two years ago by Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the US, when they announced they would no longer pay for 48 brand-name medications.  This was a result of many medicines raising over 20% in price over the previous year, so Express Scripts stopped paying for them in 2014 and moved their patients

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