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What's Behind The Recent Price Increases For Prescription Drugs?

For many, there isn't a choice to be made about whether or not to take their prescription medication. Unfortunately, patients have seen the costs of name brand prescription drugs skyrocket over the past decade. In the past seven years, prices on many recognizable drugs have doubled, with some rising even faster. Robert Langreth of Bloomberg Business looked into this trend to try to uncover a reason behind the price hikes. 

Price increases

Let's start by examining the specific rise in cost for some name brand pharmaceuticals. EpiPen is a well known allergic reaction treatment vital for individuals with severe allergies. Since 2007, the cost has risen more than 200-percent. Over the same time frame, the cost of Viagra has increased by more than 150-percent. A diabetes treatment called Humulin R U 500 has spiked more than 350-percent. Similar increases can be found for drugs treating multiple sclerosis, narcolepsy and a wide range of other diseases. By far, the most costly, however, are treatments for cancer. Gleevec, a pill taken by leukemia patients, costs more than $350 per pill, which represents more than a 150-percent increase since 2007. 

Causes of increases

There are a number of potential factors that contribute to the steep increase in prescription prices. To start, many drugs are being introduced at extremely high prices. For example, 15 new cancer drugs introduced since 2010 all retail for about $10-thousand per month. Treatments for genetic disorders and cystic fibrosis have commonly cost upwards of $300-thousand per year. Another factor is the consolidation of pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer's attemp to takeover AstraZeneca has failed thus far, but many other acquisitions have been successful, which gives each company more control over pricing and fewer competitors. While consumers can offset their own costs by using generic drugs instead of the name brand, overall spending in the US on prescriptions has continued to rise. Much of that has to do with rising prices used to recapture any profits lost to new drugs being introduced, or individuals going generic. 

More education

When compared to other medical spending, prescription cost are in line, or in some cases behind, in their rate of increase. Much of that, however, can be attributed to the cost of generic drugs pulling the overall market price down. At any rate, doctors have become more active in educating patients not only about the need for and effects of a new prescription, but also the expected price of treatment. One group is even attempting to devise an algorithm to help cancer patients understand the expense of oncology drugs in order to determine their best course of action. 

At Razook's Drug, we're here to help you understand the effect and potential risk of any new prescription. We invite you to stop in and consult with our on-staff pharmacists about any questions or concerns you have about your prescriptions. 

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