Pressured By Medicare, Drug Companies Moderate Price Increases

A doctor holding a stethoscope with his hand

Drug companies raised list prices of 983 prescription drugs by an average of 5.6% in January, lower than inflation and lower than it has raised them in prior years.  A report put out by 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit drug-price analytics group, said that Pfizer Inc., Novartis AG and Eli Lilly & Company are among the companies that took the price increases.  After several years of taking double digit prices on many drugs, the companies have moderated price increases, in part due to pressure from the government.  “The industry doesn’t want to stick its neck out and make itself a target of politicians, particularly given the lessened support in the Republican Party for the industry compared to 5 or 10 years ago,” David Risinger, an SVB Securities analyst, told the Wall Street Journal.

Amazon Launches $5/Month Prescription-Drug Plan Inc. is launching a new subscription service called RxPass on Tuesday.  It’s available only to Prime members and offers unlimited access to commonly prescribed generic medications, including high-blood pressure and anxiety drugs, for only $5/month.  John Love, the VP of Amazon Pharmacy, said the service will save the average Prime member around $100/year on prescription costs.  “We think even if we can just make things a little bit better for a whole lot of people, that’s going to have a resounding impact on health,” Love told The Wall Street Journal.  Amazon started selling prescription medicines in 2020, two years after its acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack Inc.

Prescription Drugs’ List Price Up 6.6% In Just 3 Weeks

Drug makers typically raise their prices in the beginning of the year and 2022 has been no exception.  A new study found that about 150 drug makers raised prices on 866 products in the U.S. during the first three weeks of the year by 6.6%.  That’s slightly less than the overall inflation rate of 7% over the past year, but there still may be more drug price hikes on the way.  Therefore, it’s possible that this could be a record year for drug price increase.  Some of the numbers have been eye popping, such as the 536% increase Exelan Pharmaceuticals implemented for its generic high blood pressure treatment Lisinopril.

OTC Hearing Aides Will Hit The Market In 2022

A woman in Floral dress sitting in the chair and smiling

After a 90 day public comment period expires in the middle of January with the Food & Drug Administration regarding allowing hearing aids to be sold without a prescription, the FDA will write a final version of the rule that will be based, in part, on feedback from the public and industry groups.  This will serve as a guideline for manufacturers to start making the devices, which could be sold at Costco, CVS, Safeway and other retail outlets.  “I think the soonest these devices will be available would be the second half of next year,” Barbara Kelley, the executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, told AARP Bulletin December 2021 Edition, page 4).  This should lower the cost significantly from current prices of $2K to $6K per pair.

Great News For Medicare Recipients In New Senate Bill

Many had criticized Congress for working on a sweeping bill that, at the end of the day, did not include relief for consumers over the high cost of prescription drugs.  That has been quickly remedied.  A deal was reached today which adds to the $1.85 trillion social-policy and climate bill a provision which gives Medicare the power to negotiate the price of some drugs, penalize drug companies for raising prices faster than inflation, and cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors at $2,000 per year.  It also creates a $35 out-of-pocket monthly maximum for insulin.  “This deal will directly reduce out-of-pocket drug spending for millions of patients,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.).

AARP Urges You To Fight For Lower Prescription Prices

The American Association for Retired Persons, or AARP, has launched a campaign #ShowYourReceipts to put pressure on Congress to lower drug prices.  Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world!  Here is how you can participate:

  1. Take a copy of your prescription invoices;
  2. Tag your federal law makers; and
  3. Add #ShowYourRecipts to your post.

Health & Human Services Secretary Announces Plan To Reduce Prescription Drug Prices

Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra outlined the Biden Administration’s plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.  The 29-page plan supports legislation that allows the federal government to negotiate lower drug prices on the costliest drugs each year, and pass those savings on to insurers.  It would also reduce regulatory barriers in order to get new drugs approved by the FDA and incentivize drug makers to develop medications that are already on the market in the U.S. in order to reduce prices.  Per-capita prescription drug spending in the U.S. far exceeds that of other high-income countries.

New Prescription Drugs Are Coming With A Hefty Price : By Derek Baine

More and more prescription drugs are coming to market with outrageous wholesale prices and many have wondered whether Medicare and private insurance companies will cover them.  They got their answer on Friday for the new Alzheimer’s drug from Biogen when The Department of Veterans Affairs said they won’t cover Aduhelm.  Medicare has yet to weigh in.  The VA cited the risks of causing series side effects and a lack of evidence that it improves cognitive function in denying coverage.  By law, the VA has greater leeway than other government health programs like Medicare and Medicaid to deny coverage of medicines it deems to be of poor value.  A group of VA doctors concluded last month that more than 150K veteran beneficiaries diagnosed with Alzheimer’s could receive the drug.  However, it would come at a cost of $4 billion annually.

Biden Lays Out Plan To Cut Drug Prices

President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order that aims at lowering drug prices, and it actually has teeth.  One provision is that the government can now take legal action against companies that collude to try and keep generic drugs from coming to market.  Another allows states and Indian tribes to import drugs from Canada.  He also directed the FDA’s parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, to issue proposed rules within 120 days to allow hearing aides to be sold over the counter.  The four largest makers of hearing aides control 84% of the market.  Because they are so expensive, only 14% of the 48 million Americans suffering from hearing loss use the devices.  Still, some criticized the order because it doesn’t give Medicare the power to directly negotiate prices with drug companies.  “Negotiation of prices is the biggest and best solution,” to lowering drug prices, said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C.

Prescription Drug Prices Up Again In 2020

The increase in price of the brand name drugs most widely used by senior citizens was up 2.9% in 2020.  Although the increase is lower than the last couple of years, it’s still more than double the rate of inflation (currently at 1.3%) and some drugs remain exorbitantly and out of the range of affordability for many seniors.  USA Today recently ran a story on Lynn Carfuto, who has chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a disease which is treatable but with a drug that costs $14K per month.  The drug has seen an 82% price increase since its release in 2013.  She can only afford it due to receiving grants from non-profits.  It’s a very sad case when you have a disease which is treatable but the price is so far out of reach.