Think prescription drugs are too high? According to the non-profit health organization, the Kaiser Family Foundation, you are not alone: a recent study of theirs revealed that approximately three quarters of Americans believe that medication costs are unreasonable.
Higher priced medications are generally ones that have recently been streamlined into the market, like cancer drugs (Stivarga) and medications for hepatitis C virus (Sovaldi); still, drugs that have been established in the market for effectiveness when it comes to multiple sclerosis (MS) and diabetes are the rise as well.
The explanation behind these high medication costs is a bit complicated. Dr. Steven D. Pearson, from the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (a not-for-profit that conducts research and reviews as it relates to pricing for new medications) notes one large concern is that the U.S. government lacks power when negotiating with pharmaceuticals; while this is not an issue for most other industrialized nations. As well, these companies are looking to gain a profit, especially in lieu of many switching to generic drugs over the past ten years.
But are the increases in medication costs worth it? Pearson comments that there are new drugs that offer vital, and at times, life-saving benefits. More research needs to be conducted on exactly which drugs help patients the most; which is one of the goals his organization is working on.
Below is an overview of the higher costing medications currently on the market:
This past summer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two costly cholesterol medications: Repatha (at $14,100/year) and Praluent ($14,600/year). While the drugs do help those who suffer from high cholesterol, Pearson notes that a recent report that he and colleagues conducted revealed that Repatha and Praluent really should cost about $4,811 and $3,615; a figure that is calculated on approximate quality of life and increase to life expectancy.
According to Dr. Daniel A. Goldstein, Emory University, cancer medications are not cheap, at approximately $10,000 to $15,000 per month, with treatments that could last for years. While private insurers generally do cover these drugs, the co-payment can be quite large.
Goldstein notes that the prices associated with these life-saving drugs may be warranted; however, insurers should consider covering more of the costs, so that those who suffer this illness can afford them. In addition, Goldstein conducted a study that revealed that necitumumab, a medication for lung cancer (which has not yet been approved by the FDA) should cost about $500 to $1,300 per cycle, as it really gives sufferers only a few additional weeks of quality of life.
Many heads turned when four new medications were introduced into the market recently for hepatitis C, as they were able to cure more individuals who suffer from the virus, and decrease side effects from previous drugs that had been used in the past. A 12-week treatment of Sovaldi comes at the incredibly high price of $84,000 … or $1,000/pill. Still, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review reports that while it is quite expensive now, the long-term benefits may warrant the high price, with the prevention of liver disease sufferers in the future.
While the foundation of these treatments use traditional, cost-effective insulin it is the new way of administering the treatments that are causing costs to rise. Using pens now, rather than syringes, the price is skyrocketing; with pens costing approximately $40 dollars each – and 100 syringes at $10. When reviewed by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, the study revealed that pens offered minimal long-term advantages to diabetes sufferers.
New therapies have been placed into the market for MS; however they come at a cost. A recent study revealed that prices have increased approximately eight to twelve percent among newly introduced MS drugs, including one called Aubagio. As such, the domino affect has reflected upon older MS drug pricing; now costing $60,000/year in 2015 – from $8,000 to $11,000/year in 1993.