Pharmaceutical companies raised the prices of more than 3,400 drugs in the first half of 2019, surpassing the number of drug hikes they imposed during the same period last year, according to an analysis first reported by NBC News.
The average price increase per drug was 10.5%, a rate around five times that of inflation.
About 40 of the drugs saw triple-digit increases. That includes a generic version of the antidepressant Prozac, which saw a price increase of 879%.
The surge in price hikes comes amid ongoing public and political pressure to drag down the sky-rocketing price of drugs and healthcare costs overall. In May of 2018, President Trump boldly announced that drug companies would unveil “voluntary massive drops in prices” within weeks. But no such drops were ever announced. Trump then went on to publicly shame Pfizer for continuing to raise drug prices. The company responded with a short-lived pause on drug price increases mid-way through last year, but it resumed increasing prices in January—as did dozens of other pharmaceutical companies.
“Requests and public shaming haven’t worked,” Michael Rea, chief executive of RX Savings Solutions, told Reuters last December. His company helps health plans and employers seek lower-cost prescription medicines. It also conducted the new analysis on drug prices.
In December, Rea predicted that the number of 2019 increases would be even greater than in past years. It appears he is correct.
The more than 3,400 drug price increases in the first half of 2019 is a 17% increase over the number of drug price hikes in the first half of 2018. In addition to the Prozac generic, the drugs that saw triple-digit increases included the topical steroid Mometasone, which had a price increase of 381%. A pain reliever and cough medication (Promethazine/Codeine) saw a 326% hike while the ADHD treatment Guanfacine 2mg saw its price rise 118%.
In May, the Trump administration finalized a rule that will require drug companies to include drug list prices in television advertisements. The rule is slated to go into effect sometime this summer.
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