We’re mad as hell about obscene drug costs, and we’re not going to take it anymore!
Truth is, we’re not taking it—that is, the medicine. Nearly 10% of Americans skip prescriptions because they can’t afford them. Meanwhile, predatory drug companies like Valeant buy up old patents and jack up the prices—costs that Medicare can’t negotiate, by law. Even as demand for a drug falls, profits rise.
We’ve seen Doxycycline, that workhorse antibiotic, go from $20 a bottle in 2013 to $1,849 in 2014. Now an old drug for drug-resistant tuberculosis has gone from $500 to $10,800 for 30 tablets and then back down (but only to $1,050) while one for toxoplasmosis spiked from $13.50 to $750 a tablet and then went down, too (but we’re not sure how much yet). A common drug for gout went from 10 cents a pill to $5 but is coming back at an affordable price. The list goes on. We’ve cured hepatitis C—at $1,000 a pill. The new cystic fibrosis drug? $300,000 a year. New cancer drugs? $100,000 on up.
How will we solve it? Everyone has an answer, but some answers seem like direct opposites. Revising patent laws is a start. Many conservatives would like to empower drug companies (and health insurers, which have some sway over prices) to compete more freely…while many liberals would like to limit drug company pricing power and give Medicare regulators the ability to negotiate drug prices.
One thing is certain—change will come. As the drug industry blog PharmaExec.com put it, “The days of unchallenged pricing are clearly drawing to a close.”
How have high prescription drug costs affected you? What solutions do you think would work? Tell us your story or leave a comment here. We’ll share selected reader comments in a future issue.