Drug companies increased prices of popular medications, with some doubling the listed charges, in the last half a decade, a report has found.
The Reuters report looked into the top 10 commonly used drugs in the U.S. and found that four increased in price by over 100 percent since 2011. The other six also have significant price rises of over 50 percent.
Putting all these increases together have caused the public buyers, employers and government health aids to spend added billions in costs. As a result, the sales for the top 10 widely used medicines in the U.S. shoot up by 44 percent from 2011 to 2014, yielding a $54-million added profit. This is despite the 22 percent drop in prescriptions.
Drug Price Increase Leaders
The drugs included in the top 10 list are those used to treat arthritis, asthma, high cholesterol levels and other common health woes.
Leading the list is AbbVie Inc's Humira, which is an arthritis medication. Its price increased by 126 percent. Coming in at second place is Amgen Inc's arthritis drug Enbrel and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd's multiple sclerosis medicine Copaxone, which prices both shoot up by 118 percent.
Reuters said it shared the analysis results with the pharmaceutical companies involved and none raised disputes. However, a number of firms noted that the analysis did not include prices after discounts and rebates, which are something they generally maintain confidential.
For example, Amgen said that after discounts, the average sales price of Enbrel is at least $200 less than what is indicated on the list.
Another example is Johnson & Johnson's arthritis drug Remicade. In the list, the price increased by nearly 63 percent, but spokesperson Caroline Pavis said the increase were only closer to 5.3 percent per year on the average.
For GlaxoSmithKline Plc's asthma medication Advair, the price increase noted by Reuters was 67 percent. However, after discounts and rebates, spokesperson Jenni Ligday said the prices are actually much lower.
Drug Prices: Hot Topic
The prices of medicines have become a hot topic in the recent months. In fact, it has been a staple in presidential candidates' speeches and campaigns. One of the main reasons for this is the sky-high price hike imposed by Turing and Valeant on its drugs.
For Robert Zirkelbach from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the price increases made by the two companies are exceptions.
"Our industry invests on average 20 percent of our revenues into research and development. It's a fundamentally different business model," he explains.
Pharmaceutical firms Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, Teva, AstraZeneca and Amgen, which all have drugs in the list, said that it provides support to consumers with low income. AstraZeneca's Abigail Bozarth explained that the company poses prices depending on market conditions, which is a usual practice in the industry.