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The Drugs That Cost 743 Percent More in 2014 Than 2013
Brand Name Drugs Cost More, Generics Cost Less
Some of the reasons drug costs rose: inflation, more people covered because of the Affordable Care Act, and an increasing number of younger adults who have become eligible for insurance coverage.
But it's also an inescapable fact that costs have risen because newer drugs have higher price tags. Brand-name drugs and generics showed opposite trends. Brand prices were up more than 15 percent on average, while generic drug costs went down by 20 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year.
1 Percent of Rx Drugs Account for 32 Percent of Spending
The bulk of the higher prices were for specialty drugs, including hepatitis C antiviral therapy. Some providers have been forced to ration healthcare for their patients with hepatitis C because of the high cost of antiviral drug treatment, which can exceed 0,000 per patient.
But the new hepatitis C pills — Sovaldi, Olysio, Harvoni, and Viekira Pak — have many pros: They require shorter treatment times, have cure rates of over 90 percent, and have fewer side effects. Before this new set of antivirals came on the market, standard hepatitis C treatment was injectable interferon and ribavirin antiviral pills for 48 weeks. The older treatments were only 40 percent to 80 percent effective, have severe side effects that include depression, and are not an option for those with liver failure or mental health issues. The cost of treating a patient with hepatitis C in 2012, before the new drug approvals, ranged from about ,000 to ,000 yearly.
The next highest cost increase in 2014 after hepatitis C drugs —128 percent — was for compounded medications, which are individually prepared combinations to meet a patient’s unique treatment needs. Examples are medications made as liquids for a person who cannot swallow a pill, or a drug made without a dye for a patient with dye allergies.
These two drug categories accounted for about 1 percent of U.S. prescriptions but 32 percent of dollars spent in 2014. Drugs to treat cancer patients and those with inflammatory conditions like arthritis also showed higher than average cost increases in the new analysis.
The good news in the report: The cost of depression meds fell by 18 percent, and dollars spent treating asthma were down by 15 percent.
Photo credit: Getty Images
We want to hear from you. Have your drug costs gone up or down?
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