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Exhorbitant Drug Price Increases

category_bug_geriatrician.gif [EDITORIAL NOTE: The TGB Geriatrician is a bi-weekly column written by Dr. Bill Thomas (bio) for Time Goes By to give us the information we need to help us navigate the health issues of aging. Dr. Thomas also writes his own blog at Changing Aging.]

“Drug companies are quietly pushing through price hikes of 100 percent or even more than 1,000 percent for a very small but growing number of prescription drugs, helping to drive up costs for insurers, patients and government programs.

“The number of brand-name drugs with increases of 100 percent or more could double this year from four years ago, researchers from the University of Minnesota say. Many of the drugs are older products that treat fairly rare, but often serious or even life-threatening, conditions.

“Among the examples: Questcor Pharmaceuticals last August raised the wholesale price on Acthar, which treats spasms in babies, from about $1,650 a vial to more than $23,000. Ovation raised the cost of Cosmegen, which treats a type of tumor, from $16.79 to $593.75 in January 2006.

“The average wholesale price of 26 brand-name drugs jumped 100 percent or more in a single cost adjustment last year, up from 15 in 2004, the university study found. In the first half of this year, 17 drugs made the list.”

USA Today, 8 August 2008

It is not a "free market" when producers can arbitrarily push through price increases at will for products people need to survive, and nothing can be done to stop them. Where is the pressure to lower prices?

By some bizarre logic, we are expected to accept the "workings of capitalism" when companies raise prices by 100 percent, and we are supposed to object to our government acting to bring prices down by increasing competition.

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[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Susan Fisher tells us how she learned the kid-friendly explanation for thunder The Angels are Bowling.]

Comments

One of the sad aspects of this situation is that a fair number of people could probably do without these expensive drugs. Some of the old standbys work just fine, but the drs. often push the latest on the market. I'm always reluctant to try the latest because of the untoward & often serious, long-term side effects. Also, life style changes can often preclude the use of drugs as you recently discovered by simple reduction in calories. I often wonder what it's going to take for Americans to adjust their "pill-popping, instant relief attitudes." Dee

It isn't just the pharmaceuticals that are arbitrarily increasing the price of medicine. Two days ago I foolishly used my dental plan to save money instead of going to my own dentist that I have used for 24 years. I did this because I needed an expensive crown and the cost difference was huge.

The insurer's clinic showed me the bill they were submitting to the HMO and it was over double what my dentist would have charged for the same services.

I still don't have the crown, but 18 x-rays were taken and a cavity they found was filled. To make matters worse, it hurts to bite down on the tooth that was filled and that never happened with my old dentist.

"Where is the pressure to lower prices?" Surely this is a rhetorical question otherwise the post would have included URLs leading to non-profits at work on this issue.

Are geritricians organized as a group and prepared to address this? Does either presidential candidate have a committment to substantive change on how all this works to the disadvantage of the consumer?


My family's second highest cost per month is drug co-pays, second only to our mortgage. And this is to a mail-in company for 90-day prescriptions! There are generics for fewer than a fourth of our medications.

My question is why the drug companies are given a free rein to price their medications any way they choose, while in Europe and Canada, they are forced to charge a lower price?

In answer to naomi dagen bloom's question about the presidential candidates' positions on drug costs: McCain does not mention medications at all in his health care plan. Following is Obama's statement:

Lower prescription drug costs. The second-fastest growing type of health expenses is prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging Americans more than double the price. Obama will allow Americans to buy their medicines from other developed countries if the drugs are safe and prices are lower outside the U.S. Obama will also repeal the ban that prevents the government from negotiating with drug companies, which could result in savings as high as $30 billion. Finally, Obama will work to increase the use of generic drugs in Medicare, Medicaid, and FEHBP and prohibit big name drug companies from keeping generics out of markets.

What is heartbreaking is the exorbitant price of medications for cancer. Without insurance coverage we would be bankrupt and then my husband couldn't get the Procrit shot every week that helps him stay alive. Then there is the price of the chemo agent which is about $5,000 a month. They say it is because it is an orphan drug and very tightly regulated.
Congress in its infinite wisdom has given us Plan D which cannot by law negotiate prices on pharmaceuticals. There are probably many good ways to regulated the industry but I don't think Congress will institute any of them.

If a solution to high cost of drugs and other medical expenses is not found then health care for everyone will bankrupt this country. There has to be some controls. I understand that research costs money but it's exorbitant profits that should be looked into. A reasonable profit is fair but we have gotten to a point where people who can will charge as much as possible with no concern for the people.

I am originally from Canada so it was an unbelievable shock to get to know the US medical system when I moved her 12 years ago. The medical insurance for me, my daughter and my mother are higher than my mortgage payments (another commenter made mention of that in their situation) and when I add on the cost of my mother's drugs, there is no question that medical expense is the greatest expense above and beyond any other cost in our household. I'd rather pay higher taxes and enjoy the ease and much lower personal costs of the Canadian system.

through her leadership as the state's executive, Governor Granholm has created this drug discount resource - already visited by thousands of Michigan citizens. The site, however, only represents one way the state of Michigan has achieved significant prescription drug savings over the last several years.also i need to same some money to get my pain killers for the operation of my tumour .
thanks

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