Pharma mute to drug pricing debate?

KEY TAKEAWAY: Pharma,so far, has remained mute to the ongoing debate around the cost of prescription drugs, but unless they acknowledge that drug pricing is out of control they are going to be forced to comply with new pricing guidelines.

According to Vice “one in four Americans say they now pay more out of pocket for at least one of their prescription medications than they did a year ago—and it’s a trend that researchers don’t see stopping any time soon.”

The findings come from a recent Consumer Reports survey which polled 1,000 people nationwide who regularly take prescription drugs; 25 percent of whom reported an increase how much they pay at the pharmacy now than they did 12 months ago. Some of the increases were drastic: people paid as much as $100 more for a single prescription.

CR’s survey shows that some of the price increases are substantial. Twenty-four percent of regular prescription takers who said they payed more out-of-pocket shelled out $50 or more for a single prescription this year than they did for the same prescription a year ago. Nearly half of regular prescription takers who now pay more out of pocket (47%) said that, year over year, they paid an additional $20 or more for a drug they regularly take. Fifteen percent paid $100 more this year for one of their scripts than they did for the same one in 2016.

Here’s how Americans responded:

  • Didn’t do anything but pay the higher price (37%)
  • Asked the pharmacist or doctor for a less expensive drug (35%)
  • Asked the pharmacist for a lower price on the same drug (22%)
  • Called the insurance company to see if it would cover a greater portion of the cost (20%)
  • Used a discount coupon (17%)
  • Shopped at another pharmacy for a lower price (15%)
  • Did not fill the prescription (14%)
  • Shopped online for a lower price (11%)

Congress is taking action too.  U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) reintroduced the Fair Accountability and Innovative Research (FAIR) Drug Pricing Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that takes the first step in addressing skyrocketing prescription drug prices by providing transparency of pharmaceutical corporations that plan to significantly increase drug prices. U.S. prescription drug spending reached a record high of $425 billion in 2015, accounting for almost 16.7 percent of all U.S. health care spending, with expectations that spending will surpass $600 billion by 2020.

But why are prescription drug prices rising? An increase in prescription drug usage is one of the reasons for the rise in prices. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]47.3 percent of Americans took at least one prescription drug in the last 30 days between 2009 to 2012[/inlinetweet], compared to just 39.1 percent of people between 1988 to 1994. Women tend to use prescription medication more often — 51.8 percent reported taking at least one prescription in the past month between 2009 to 2012, compared to just 42.7 percent for men.

And the use of multiple prescription medications is rising, as well. According to the CDC, 10.1 percent of survey respondents used five or more prescription drugs in the past month between 2009 and 2012, compared to just 4 percent in the earlier block of years.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The largest area of growth between 2014 and 2015 was in specialty medications,[/inlinetweet] often used to treat rare diseases. Created using high-tech development methods, specialty drugs are often derived from bacteria, viruses and other living cells.

Fighting Back?

Alarmed by skyrocketing prices for some prescription drugs, the California Senate on Tuesday approved a measure aimed at increasing pressure to hold down costs to consumers by requiring more public reporting of price hikes.

The lawmakers approved a bill that would require drug manufacturers to notify health plans and state purchasers such as the prison department of increases in the wholesale cost of drugs in writing at least 90 days before the new costs were to take effect.