Analysis: Price of prescription drugs rose over 10 percent in US last year

An analysis released Monday by healthcare data company Truveris showed that US prescription drug prices lifted 10.43 percent in 2015, with the cost of branded medicines jumping 14.77 percent. Meanwhile, the price of specialty drugs rose 9.21 percent, with the cost of generic medicines increasing 2.93 percent.

"These new figures underscore growing concerns about the increasingly prohibitive costs of prescription medications – a matter that prompted extensive debate in 2015 among presidential candidates, congressional representatives, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical executives," remarked AJ Loiacono, chief innovation officer at Truveris, adding "even as pressures mount, the trend of rising costs shows no signs of stopping."

Loiacono noted that while price increases were noted for nearly every drug category, larger price rises were recorded for certain conditions. Price hikes of nearly 34 percent were observed for drugs that treat menopause, while the costs of treatments for gout jumped 33 percent. Additionally, therapies indicated for erectile dysfunction experienced a 20-percent increase in cost last year.

Truveris also stated that prescription drug costs in the US rose by 10.9 percent in 2014. "We're in our third year of double-digit [increases]," Loiacono explained, adding "double-digit inflation is concerning."

Meanwhile, a number of drugmakers have introduced price hikes recently. Earlier this month, an analysis revealed that Pfizer raised the prices of more than 100 therapies in the US. Additionally, Raymond James disclosed that Amgen increased the price of Enbrel (etanercept) by 8 percent last month, following prior increases of 8 percent in September and 10 percent in May.

Moreover, a spokeswoman for Vanda Pharmaceuticals stated that the drugmaker raised the price of the non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder treatment Hetlioz (tasimelteon) by 10 percent on January 1. Analysts at Piper Jaffray said the price of the drug is now 76 percent higher than when it was launched in 2014.

Drug pricing has become an increasing point of contention following a decision by Turing Pharmaceuticals to raise the price of the toxoplasmosis drug Daraprim (pyrimethamine) by more than 5000 percent. Martin Shkreli, who has since been replaced as CEO of the company, later reneged on a pledge to reduce the price of the drug to more affordable levels.

In December, the US Senate's Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on price increases for older drugs, with a particular focus on Turing and Valeant Pharmaceuticals. US lawmakers also recently accused Gilead Sciences of pricing its hepatitis C treatments Sovaldi (sofosbuvir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) with the sole aim of maximising revenue.

For related analysis, see ViewPoints: HHS forum suggests change is coming on drug pricing – but not today (or tomorrow).

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