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Report: Drug Prices Hit 10-Year High

Thursday, 17 Mar 2011 10:50 AM



Drug prices rose 6.9 percent on average in 2010, according to Barclays Capital, the largest increase since it began compiling data in 2000, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The previous high was 6.8 percent in 2008. The study surveys list prices for the 130 top-selling drugs.

Blood-pressure medicine Benicar topped the list, with its price soaring 29.3 percent. Leukemia therapy drug Gleevec registered a 20.9 percent increase, and attention-deficit-disorder drug Concerta 19.7 percent.

While insurance can cover much of the drug costs, consumers will ultimately pay the price, experts say. "The price increases get rolled back into premiums" and increase out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays, Helen Sherman, chief pharmacy officer at the pharmacy-benefits manager for Regence BlueCross BlueShield, a major insurer in the Northwest, told The Wall Street Journal.

The increases come partly in response to drives by the government and commercial health plans to curb drug costs. Major drug companies also are concerned about the looming loss of patent protection for some of their biggest-selling medicines, which means a substantial drop in revenue.

The pharmaceutical companies are "looking to maintain and keep their profit up," Eileen Wood, vice president of pharmacy and health-quality programs at CDPHP, a health plan in New York State, told The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, a new study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, shows that prescription drug prices have risen much faster than the prices for other medical goods and services over the past four years.

The drug prices jumped at an average annual rate of 6.6 percent from 2006 through the first quarter of 2010, compared to a 3.8 percent yearly gain for the medical consumer price index.

"This report reminds us that this is an area where we should be looking for savings for taxpayers and beneficiaries," said Democratic Rep. Pete Stark, ranking member of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health, according to Reuters.

© HealthDay

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