First, a report by Axios found the prices of the top 20 drugs prescribed in the U.S. rose by more than 200 percent in the past 14 months. Based on an analysis by Pharmacy Benefits Consultants, Axios found that the price of the highest selling drug in the world – Humira – jumped 19 percent over the 14-month period. In 2017, Humira sales totaled more than $18 billion in the U.S. alone. At the same time, Amgen raised its price for Enbrel by 19 percent and Celgene hiked the cost of Revlimid by 20 percent. The biggest price increase cited in the analysis was SynerDerm from Phlight Pharma, which saw its price rise an astonishing 1,468 percent in the 14-month span. And at a time of heightened national focus, opioids like OxyContin and Percocet also jumped more than 20 percent apiece.
Second, a Congressional committee reported that the cost of the 20 most often prescribed drugs for Medicare beneficiaries have jumped an average of 12 percent a year for the past five years and six of those drugs had price hikes of more than 100 percent. As a result, even though the use of these drugs declined over the time period, total costs were up $8.5 billion. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the senior Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the report “demonstrates that the pricing decisions made by these drug companies are outrageous.”
Not surprisingly, these price jumps have caught the attention of American voters. The March Kaiser Health tracking poll reports that 52 percent of the public says passing legislation to bring drug prices down should be a “top priority” for President Trump and the Congress. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents also expressed their concerns that the drug industry has “too much influence” in Washington. That is well ahead of the National Rifle Association (52 percent), hospitals (36 percent) and doctors (30 percent).
With numbers like these it is no wonder that the pharmaceutical industry has engaged in a multi-million dollar campaign to improve its image with the public and spent nearly $300 million to lobby Congress in 2017. The industry has also worked to “diffuse and deflect” attention from drug prices to pharmaceutical benefit managers (PBMs), health insurers, and the 340B drug pricing program.
As Congress searches for ways to slow the pace of drug price inflation, lawmakers should protect and preserve 340B, one of the only successful efforts to reign in drug costs.