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Drug Prices Soar Because They Can

posted by Alicia Caramenico

on March 16, 2016

Old or new, tons of competition or a lone treatment – whatever the circumstance, the prices of branded prescription drugs continue to climb higher and higher.  That’s exactly what’s happening with multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, our latest Drug of the Week.

When Copaxone was approved in 1996 it cost roughly $9,000 a year – or about $750 for a month’s supply, according to the New York Times.  Since then, Copaxone has become the most widely used multiple sclerosis drug and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ top-selling product.

Over the years Copaxone has also gotten ridiculously more expensive. In 2008, a month’s supply sold for more than $2,300, a price that soared 157 percent to $6,072 in 2014, according to data from Bloomberg.

And despite competing treatments on the market, the price of Copaxone and other older multiple sclerosis drugs continue to rise significantly. Why? Authors of a May 2015 study in the journal Neurology give the “simplest explanation”  for the skyrocketing prices of multiple sclerosis drugs: Because drugmakers can charge whatever they want.

“Pharmaceutical companies raise prices of new and old MS DMTs in the United States to increase profits and our health care system puts no limits on these increases,” they wrote. They also send an important warning that these rising prices create dangerous barriers to access for patients with multiple sclerosis.

For more information on the unsustainable rise in prescription drug prices, check out our previous drug spotlights.