The high price of drugs in the United States has been a popular topic during the past two decades. However, the situation has become significantly worse since 2011. The past five years have seen a 100 percent increase in the prices of four of the country’s top 10 most popular drugs. This has helped contribute to a rise in medication costs for health care providers, employers and consumers that is in the billions of dollars. The scary thing is that there seems to be no end in sight to the price increases made by pharmaceutical companies.
The four-year period from 2011 to 2014 saw sales for the nation’s 10 most popular drugs rise to $54 billion. This is an increase of 44 percent. However, prescriptions for these same drugs fell 22 percent during this same period of time. Humira is a drug used to treat arthritis. The drug’s manufacturer is AbbVie. They increased the price by a whopping 126 percent. There were also a pair of increases that were each 118 percent on drugs made by Amgen and Teva Pharmaceutical. Companies in the pharmaceutical industry have tried to justify these price increases. They claim the increases are necessary to cover the cost of various clinical trials that allow a wider use for drugs that have already been approved. They also claim the additional money is needed to pay for research and development.
Raising the price of even a single important drug can have an enormous impact on overall healthcare costs. For example, an additional $1 billion was paid as a result of Amgen’s decision to raise the price of an arthritis drug called Enbrel. Once again, Amgen defended the price increase by claiming their research and development expenditures have totaled roughly $33 billion during the past decade.
There is no question that medication price increases will continue to happen with regularity in the United States until some form of regulation goes into effect. When that will happen is anybody’s guess. However, it does not appear that it will take place any time soon.