PRESCRIPTION DRUG PRICES in America are among the highest in the world. On the campaign trail, President Trump said drug companies were “getting away with murder.” Is that true? Or are these firms the beneficiaries of a system that turns a blind eye to excessive profit-making at the expense of society?
In this report, we explain in simple, clear terms why drugs cost what they do. We also examine the drug-price debate in Washington, explain how the complicated business of medicine works and give you ways to save money at the pharmacy.
AARP stands by your side to help lower drug costs and make sure all Americans over 50 have affordable access to the medicine they need to live their fullest lives. — Robert Love, editor in chief
For Susan Goodreds, Repatha has been as close as you can get to a miracle drug. The 74-year-old resident of Delray Beach, Fla., has a hereditary disorder that causes dangerously high cholesterol levels. Without medicine, her “bad” cholesterol count was in the 300s; statin drugs brought the count to about 220. With Repatha, it has fallen to 35.
The catch is, simply, cost. Repatha, a new medicine that made headlines in March when a large-scale study confirmed some of its beneficial effects, costs $14,000 annually, or nearly $1,200 for each month’s injection. Even with insurance, Goodreds pays $4,650 a year for it. Add in other prescription drugs and medical costs, and her yearly health bill is $13,500 — equal to most of her fixed income. “I’m faced with some hard decisions about whether to stay on the drug,” Goodreds says. “I still have a lot of things I want to do with my life.”
If you are concerned about the high cost of drugs, let your member of Congress know by calling 844-453-9952 toll free.
Confusion, anxiety and anger over the high cost of medicine has been on the rise for more than a decade. But even as the chorus of criticism has grown louder, the price of pharmaceutical products in the U.S. continues to skyrocket.
- The cost of Bavencio, a new cancer drug approved in March, is about $156,000 a year per patient.
- A new muscular dystrophy drug came on the market late last year for an eye-popping price of $300,000 annually.
- In 2016, the FDA appproved Tecentriq, a new bladder cancer treatment that costs $12,500 a month, or $150,000 a year.
- Even older drugs that have long been on the market are not immune: The cost of insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013, despite no notable changes in the formulation or manufacturing process. And the four-decade-old EpiPen, a lifesaving allergy medication, has seen a price hike of 500 percent since 2007. Public outrage this past winter over its price tag ($609 for a package of two injectors) helped to speed up the arrival of lower-cost generic variations to the market.
The issue of high drug prices came up frequently in the recent election cycle, and in a speech in Kentucky in March, President Trump called drug prices “outrageous.” Increasingly, Americans are asking the same question of pharmaceutical companies: Why?
VIDEO: Cancer patient Heather Block says Congress needs to protect seniors and all taxpayers from price gouging by big drug companies.
The Ways of Drug Pricing
“The simple answer is because there’s nothing stopping them,” says Leigh Purvis, director of health services research for the AARP Public Policy Institute.
Other countries drive a much harder bargain with drug companies. In contrast, the U.S. allows drug companies to pretty much set their own prices.
And as we all know, when demand is high for a product, companies often raise prices. That’s exactly the case for many prescription drugs.
Tens of millions of Americans suffer from conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, all of which can be treated successfully with prescription medications.