The cost of in-patient services in the state declined by 4.9 percent from 2014 to 2015, but the cost of prescription drugs rose 8.7 percent in the same period. Insurance companies are predicting that 2016 will see a 14 percent increase.
"This is during a time when medical pricing trends are decreasing," said
"The 8.7 percent increase is driven solely by changes in unit costs," she said. Some factors cited by insurers included reduced savings from the use of generic drugs along with new and costly specialty drugs.
The top 50 priciest drugs cost an average of
"These high-cost brand drugs make up a very small number of total prescriptions, less than 0.1 percent," said Smagula, "but because of their high average cost per script, more than
Some of the more common drugs in that category are new treatments for hepatitis C, cancer and cystic fibrosis. The average price for a generic drug prescription is in the
The story of statins
He pointed to popular generic drugs used to control cholesterol, known as statins, which pharmaceutical companies are promoting for broader use among the population even as the price increases.
"Almost all the research on statins has been commercially funded, and the reason that research is undertaken is not to find out how to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in our population, it's to sell more drugs," said Abramson.
Drug companies defend the pricing structure, unique to
"That we accept that fiction as a normative way to run a health care system is our bad," said Abramson, author of a book and several scientific papers on the subject. "We can't let it go on.
"Why can't we have a public discussion around how these drugs are priced?" she said.
But the tide may be shifting, especially in the wake of recent high-profile controversies involving dramatic and apparently arbitrary increases in life-saving drugs and treatments.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that federal prosecutors are "nearing possible criminal charges for price-collusion in the generic drug industry."
The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll reports that Americans rank addressing high prescription drug costs as one of their top health-care priorities.
"Making sure that high-cost drugs for chronic conditions are affordable to those who need them is viewed as a top priority by 74 percent of the public, including large majorities of
"In addition, nearly two-thirds of the public say government action to lower prescription drug prices is a top priority."
Given the inability of
"Unless the Legislature gives us a particular mandate to put a law in place, we can't regulate what's being charged," said Sevigny.
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