New numbers show brand-name prescription drug prices rising faster than ever

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An updated study shows the cost of newly marketed brand-name prescription drugs rose more than 20% per year between 2008 and 2021. File Photo by ragonmages/Shutterstock.

Prices for newly marketed brand-name prescription drugs in the United States skyrocketed after 2008 and drove up patient care spending by more than half a trillion dollars in 2020, according to new numbers released Tuesday.

The study updated in JAMA shows significantly higher prices associated with brand-name drugs than when it was first published last year. Researchers examined brand-name drug manufacturers’ price-setting practices that often can lead to higher premiums and unaffordable out-of-pocket costs for patients.

Tuesday’s updated study analyzed 548 brand-name drugs new to the market between 2008 and 2021. It showed the average launch price increased by more than 20% per year, according to lead author Dr. Benjamin Rome at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“Prices for new brand-name prescription drugs are increasing faster than price growth for other health care services, with detrimental effects for patient access and affordability,” Rome said in a news release.

Researchers report that the percentage of drugs that cost more than $150,000 a year increased by 9% in 2008-2013 and then 47% in 2020-2021.

“Congress has been actively considering legislation to lower prescription drug prices, but proposed reforms, such as those included in the Build Back Better Act, would continue to allow manufacturers to freely set prices for new brand-name drugs,” Rome said.

Last year, the same study analyzed 79 brand-name drug prices from January 2015 to December 2017 and found a “list price” hike of 17%, which translated into an increase for consumer “net price” — the cost after co-pays, rebates or discounts — by more than 5%.

“Drug manufacturers have long argued that rising list prices for their drugs are not meaningful or important, because they are offset by … rebates,” Rome told UPI in an email last year.

“But we show that patients are not benefiting from these rebates and one in four report that out-of-pocket costs prevent them from taking their prescription drugs as prescribed.”

While researchers said rising out-of-pocket costs paid by consumers could be offset by allowing for the substitution of generic products where available, this is not always possible, according to Rome.

“New drugs in the U.S. are granted monopoly periods that typically last 12 to 17 years, and it’s during this monopoly period that drug companies tend to raise list prices each year, which can lead to higher and higher out-of-pocket costs for patients,” he said.

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