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When Record-Breaking Isn’t Always That Great

posted by Alicia Caramenico

on April 14, 2016

We’d like to offer congratulations to the Golden State Warriors for setting the NBA wins record last night. A 73-9 season that broke the 20-year record of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls is definitely something to cheer about. Yet, one record-breaking trend that doesn’t deserve praise is pharmaceutical drug pricing, which has achieved another year of sky-high increases that are draining patients and taxpayers’ dollars.

For the second year in a row, prescription drug spending rose by double digits to reach $425 billion, according to the latest IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics report.

How does the pharmaceutical industry keep smashing records year after year? It’s the combination of new specialty medications that carry six-figure price tags, historically high price hikes for older branded drugs, and protection of weak drug patents that command higher drug prices for longer periods of time. For more information on the main drivers of prescription drug prices, check out our presentation here.

The IMS report calls out that spending on specialty drugs continues to grow at a rapid and unsustainable rate, increasing by 15 percent to $121 billion in 2015.  Breaking it down, spending on treatments for hepatitis soared by 54.1 percent to $18.8 billion, autoimmune diseases rose by 29 percent to $30.2 billion, and oncology went up by 18 percent to $39.1 billion.

This prescription drug spending growth has no end in sight, as IMS expects it to climb to as high as $640 billion in 2020.

So when will this record-breaking trend end? When drugmakers show they want to be part of the solution and price their products at affordable levels to promote access and sustainability.