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AARP Research: Prescription Drugs That Cost Medicare the Most

Brand-name manufacturers still increasing medication prices

spinner image Two bottles of the drug eliquis
George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Editor’s note: For the latest information on the Part D prescription drugs Medicare spends the most on, click here.

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.

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“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. 

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

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

5. Trulicity

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

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

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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