Drug price hikes cost US billions, report finds

Drug price hikes cost US billions, report finds
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Drug companies raised prices on seven popular drugs during 2017 and 2018 without clinical evidence that the drugs had been improved in any way, according to a new report.  

The increases cost patients and insurers more than $5 billion, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) found in its report.

The report looked at the seven top-selling drugs by sales revenue that had price increases of more than two times inflation, as measured by the medical consumer price index.

According to ICER, a Boston-based research group, new evidence must “provide information different from what was previously believed in order to support a price increase.” None of the drugs examined showed evidence of improved safety or effectiveness, the analysis found.

ICER’s report was the first on either the state or national level to examine whether certain price increases are justified by new clinical evidence or other factors. 

Reducing the cost of prescription drugs is a bipartisan issue, but it can be difficult to tell just how much patients pay. Drug companies argue a drug’s list price — which doesn't reflect the discounts negotiated with insurers or through patient assistance programs — is often higher than what the patient actually pays.

However, the ICER report focused on total U.S. drug spending rather than per-unit costs. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE has made lowering drug prices a top priority of his presidency, and there are currently two competing drug pricing plans in Congress: a bipartisan Senate plan and a more sweeping plan from House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' White House not optimistic on near-term stimulus deal Sunday shows - Stimulus debate dominates MORE (D-Calif.).

The top drugs on the list included the arthritis drug Humira, nerve pain medication Lyrica, the HIV drug Truvada and the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis. 

Humira topped the list with an increase that added $1.8 billion in spending. Cancer drug Rituxan was second on the list, with an increase that added $806 million from 2017 to 2018. 

In an appendix published with the report, the manufacturers rebutted ICER’s findings. Many claimed the analysis did not reflect the value and benefit that the drugs have demonstrated. Others took issue with the methodology of the report.