Exorbitant Increases in Prescription Drug Prices Neither New Nor Uncommon.

At least 447 Medicare outpatient drugs had prices more than double between 2011 and 2015 and 36 increased their prices ten-fold!

In every week of recent months our attention is being called to one or another exorbitant or unexplainable increase in the price of yet another prescription drug. We have long recognized continuously rising prices for brand-name drugs, but the new business model of the pharmaceutical industry includes taking control of the distribution of traditionally generic drugs and jacking prices up even faster and higher than their brand-name cousins– if that is even possible.  It appears that the more medically-necessary or lifesaving the drug is, the higher the price increases are. This is what happens in a free market environment when an industry has its consumers over a barrel and is free to have its way with them.

Some poster-children of the trend include the anti-parasitic drug pyrimethamine (Daraprim) which is essential to treat certain infections in immunosuppressed people and whose price per tablet increased from $13.50 to $750 overnight; the EpiPen injector system used to administer epinephrine to people entering anaphylactic shock; insulin for diabetes; Plaquenil, and more recently Suboxone, the drug used to help manage opioid addiction.  As I will show below, there are many more drugs with recently inflated prices still cruising below the radar! Continue reading “Exorbitant Increases in Prescription Drug Prices Neither New Nor Uncommon.”

Mylan Drug Company Drops Price of EpiPen – Sort Of!

epipen-image550Mylan Pharmaceuticals is really feeling the heat.  An outpouring of outrage over its exorbitant pricing for EpiPen has caused it to announce plans to offer a generic version of the product for half the $600+ dollars of the branded version. The EpiPen is a self-injecting device used for life-saving rescue of individuals with anaphylaxis, a severe form of allergic reaction. (See my recent article for background.)  Mylan joined the new “gouge-em if you can” industry club by buying a old standard drug and jacking up the price to astronomical amounts assuming we patients had no recourse but to raid our kids’ college accounts to pay for it.  How broken is a system that has the same company selling the same drug at two vastly different prices in the same country?  I guess Mylan assumes it is still acceptable to rip-off patients with health insurance.  This face-saving move is yet another confirmation of the hypocrisy of our two-or-more-tiered healthcare system, and the absurdity of our drug pricing non-system. The only way for Mylan to get out of this public relations hole it is digging is to give EpiPen away for free as a public service to anyone who needs it! Continue reading “Mylan Drug Company Drops Price of EpiPen – Sort Of!”

Another Drug Company Rips Off the Public: Mylan’s EpiPen.

 Why do they do it?  Because they can– and because we let them!

Mylan, the manufacturer of the EpiPen, an auto-injector used to inject epinephrine beneath the skin, has raised the price of its product some 800% between 2009 and 2016.  The active drug itself is a traditional generic that costs very little. Mylan has copied a business model of buying a standard drug that is essential for some and jacking up the price to more than what desperate people are willing or able to pay.  It was easy to do so because Mylan lost its major competition and because individuals with “good” health insurance are insulated from having to pay the full price in the drugstore. The price of the usual prescription for EpiPen is reported to have risen from $100 in 2009 to around $600 today.  The pricing of this medical device that makes it convenient to carry and administer epinephrine is another of the innumerable examples of the failure of our healthcare system to protect the interests of individuals with medical needs and to tolerate predation such as this. Continue reading “Another Drug Company Rips Off the Public: Mylan’s EpiPen.”

Medicare Updates Its Prescription Drug Utilization Database.

An improved goldmine of information not otherwise available to the public and a flood of opioids.

On August 18, CMS released the second iteration of its cost-and-utilization database of prescription drugs written for patients covered by Medicare Part-D Medicare which includes beneficiaries in Part-C Managed Care and stand-alone Medicare Part-D Prescription Drug Plans. Compared to the updates of Medicare’s other 2013 public-use healthcare utilization files, this release seemed delayed and I feared the program’s continuing implementation had been quashed by the pharmaceutical industry lobby and its friends as was a 2013 initiative to provide the public with average retail drug prices. The wait was worth it.

Although restricted to the two specific Medicare populations mentioned above comprising some 70% of all Medicare beneficiaries, the database is unique in that the names and other identifying information about individual prescribers are disclosed to the public. Although the drug companies themselves know who is prescribing their products, to my knowledge, this degree of transparency for the public is unique – and therefore doubly valuable. The top 25 opioid prescribers to this population are listed below. Continue reading “Medicare Updates Its Prescription Drug Utilization Database.”