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10 Prescription Drugs That Cost Medicare the Most

AARP research finds brand-name manufacturers still increasing prices

Two bottles of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Eliquis medication sit on a pharmacy shelf in Provo, Utah, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. A Nov. 2015 forecast from health data firm IMS Health expects global sales of brand and generic prescription drugs, and nonprescription medicines, to total $1.4 trillion in 2020. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than 2.6 million Medicare Part D enrollees took the blood thinner Eliquis in 2020 at a cost of nearly $10 billion to the program. AARP researchers also found that the prices of 75 of the 100 brand-name drugs Medicare spends the most on were raised in January. Eliquis’ list price rose 6 percent.

“Brand-name drug prices have grown faster than general inflation for over a decade, causing an increasing number of patients to go without necessary medications,” AARP researchers say in a new blog post. Medicare beneficiaries, who have a median annual income of just under $30,000, take an average of four to five prescription drugs every month, the report says, and public opinion surveys consistently have found that many skip doses or don’t refill their prescriptions because of the cost.

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“You’re definitely looking at a meaningful impact on Medicare Part D spending, both on the program and the beneficiaries,” says Leigh Purvis, AARP director of health care costs and access. “It’s indicative of the larger problem where we’ve left drug companies free to continue engaging in the type of pricing behavior that’s been a problem for so long.” AARP’s new data shows that in January 2022, the average list price increase for the 75 top brand-name drugs was 5.2 percent. Price hikes ranged from 2 percent to 7.9 percent, and the prices of more than half (42 of 75) increased by 5 percent or more. 

Show Your Rx Receipts to Demand Lower Prices

Congress has an opportunity to lower the prices of your medications by allowing Medicare to negotiate. Let’s make some noise and show Congress why they need to lower drug prices NOW.

GET INVOLVED NOW!

AARP’s Fair Rx Prices Now campaign has been working to convince lawmakers to allow Medicare to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical manufacturers, levy tax penalties on drugmakers that raise prices more than inflation, and cap Part D out-of-pocket costs.

Here’s a look at the 10 drugs Medicare spent the most money on in 2020 and whose prices increased in January 2022.

1. Eliquis

  • Use: A blood thinner for people with atrial fibrillation (A-fib)
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $9.9 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 2,641,941
  • January 2022 price increase: 6 percent

2. Revlimid

  • Use: To treat cancer
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $5.4 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 43,747
  • January 2022 price increase: 4.5 percent

3. Xarelto

  • Use: A blood thinner for people with atrial fibrillation (A-fib)
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $4.7 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 1,184,718
  • January 2022 price increase: 4.9 percent

4. Januvia

  • Use: To treat diabetes
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $3.9 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 934,686
  • January 2022 price increase: 5 percent
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5. Trulicity

  • Use: To treat diabetes
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $3.3 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 497,327
  • January 2022 price increase: 5 percent

6. Imbruvica

  • Use: To treat cancer
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $3 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 26,847
  • January 2022 price increase: 7.4 percent
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7. Jardiance

  • Use: To treat diabetes
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $2.4 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 594,859
  • January 2022 price increase: 4 percent

8. Humira (Cf) pen

  • Use: To treat rheumatoid arthritis, plaque psoriasis
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $2.2 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 42,406
  • January 2022 price increase: 7.4 percent

9. Ibrance

  • Use: To treat cancer
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $2.1 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 21,394
  • January 2022 price increase: 6.9 percent

10. Symbicort

  • Use: To treat asthma
  • Medicare spending in 2020: $2 billion
  • Number of beneficiaries: 1,017,530
  • January 2022 price increase: 2 percent
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