Lawmakers continue to investigate pharmaceutical price increases

(April 29, 2018)

Our March 11 newsletter featured an article on the generic drug price fixing investigation under way by the Department of Justice and at least 47 state attorneys general. There are also many questions and concerns that lawmakers and patient advocates are raising about recent price spikes of brand name drugs. On March 26, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill released a report from the U.S. Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, Minority Office's investigation into pharmaceutical price increases:

Manufactured Crisis: How Devastating Drug Price Increases Are Harming America’s Seniors

The 12-page report identifies the 20 most-prescribed drugs for seniors in 2017 and compares price changes of those drugs for five years, between 2012 and 2017. Some of the key findings include:  For these 20 brand name drugs, prices increased an average of 12% each year for five years; this is approximately ten times the cost of inflation during the period from 2012 to 2017. The number of prescriptions written for many of these 20 drugs have sharply declined (48 million fewer) since 2012, while the sales revenue resulting from these 20 prescriptions increased by almost 8.5 billion in this period, causing healthcare costs to stay high even though use of the drugs has been reduced. The percent change in price between 2012 and 2017 ranged from a low of 31% (for the shingles vaccine Zostavax) to a high of 477% (for the brand-name nitroglycerin, Nitrostat). Drugs that have had sharp drops in number of prescriptions include Crestor (statin) and Nitrostat (nitroglycerin) while drugs that have had an increase in number of prescriptions over the five years include Restasis for dry eyes and Xarelto blood thinner.

15 of the 20 brand names identified in the report, along with data on price increases and links to patient reviews:

Top 15 of the Most Commonly Prescribed Brand Name Drugs for Seniors
and Recent Price Increases
Advair Diskus (asthma)  
$227.60 2012 price
$360.86 2017 price
59% price increase
Crestor (cholesterol)  
$349.31 2012 price
$615.65 2017 price
76% price increase
Januvia (diabetes)  
$306.58 2012 price
$517.91 2017 price
69% price increase
Lantus (diabetes)  
$121.88 2012 price
$250.24 2017 price
105% price increase
Lyrica (nerve pain)  
$264.43 2012 price
$600.35 2017 price
127% price increase
Nexium (acid reflux)  
$256.99 2012 price
$368.85 2017 price
44% price increase
Premarin (hysterectomy)  
$255.94 2012 price
$554.60 2017 price
117% price increase
Restasis (dry eyes)  
$167.62 2012 price
$321.26 2017 price
92% price increase
Spiriva (COPD; asthma)  
$244.77 2012 price
$348.30 2017 price
42% price increase
Symbicort (COPD; asthma)  
$206.05 2012 price
$293.46 2017 price
42% price increase
Synthroid (hypothyroidism;Hashimoto)
$96.35 2012 price
$153.82 2017 price
60% price increase
Tamiflu (flu)  
$97.94 2012 price
$143.18 2017 price
46% price increase
Ventolin (asthma)  
$34.67 2012 price
$50.68 2017 price
46% price increase
Xarelto (afib)  
$258.82 2012 price
$449.51 2017 price
74% price increase
Zetia (cholesterol)  
$225.63 2012 price
$483.71 2017 price
114% price increase

Sources and More on this Topic:

March 20, 2018: press release on ending pharmacist gag clause

March 26, 2018: press release on price increases of brand name drugs

August 9, 2017: bill to become law plan with Collins to tackle cost of Rx drugs: press release

United States Senate's Special Committee on Aging: Committee report of bipartisan drug pricing investigation