The drug industry is on the defensive. The federal government may be doing precious little to bring down prices, but some states are on the offensive. And, according to Stat News, the drug industry is spending tens of millions to keep states from lowering drug prices.
However, just last month, Vermont passed a law that requires drug companies to justify price increases. In California, the Senate has passed a similar requirement and there’s an upcoming ballot measure that would limit the price of some drugs. Ohio has a similar upcoming ballot measure.
Pharmaceutical companies are responding by giving tens of millions to opponents of the ballot measures, which were initiated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Merck and Pfizer, among others, have given some $68 million to fight the California ballot measure alone.
At the same time, they continue to raise drug prices ever higher. Why not so long as they can? The average price of brand name drugs rose 14 percent last year, according to the market research firm Truveris. We are now paying three times more than people in the United Kingdom for the top 20-selling drugs in the world.
Pfizer has raised its drug prices almost 9 percent recently. And, six months ago it had raised its drug prices 10 percent. Johnson & Johnson upped its price for rheumatoid arthritis drugs 30 percent in the last 18 months. Amgen did the same. Biogen’s multiple sclerosis drug now costs 18 percent more.
The pharmaceutical companies are continuing to blame insurers for high drug prices. But, so long as they charge a lot for unique brand-name drugs, insurers have no choice but to raise premiums, deductibles and/or copays.
Brand name prices will remain high until there are generic substitutes. And, unfortunately, there is a long list of generic drugs waiting for approval by the FDA.
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