Cost tracker: Drug prices rose nearly 40% over past decade 

Health News

By Naveen Athrappully 
Contributing Writer 

The increase in the cost of prescription medications has outpaced inflation over the past 10 years, according to the telemedicine platform GoodRx. 

A price tracker from GoodRx shows prescription drug prices between 2014 and May 2024 have risen by 37%, more than the 34.27% overall inflation during the same period, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“Policymakers and pharmaceutical manufacturers are making efforts to improve medication access and affordability, but costs continue to be a significant burden for many,” GoodRx said. The total out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs in 2024 year to date is $21 billion, with the average spending coming in at $16.26 per prescription. 

“Health care is often paid for by insurance, but more of the cost burden has been shifted to the consumer as prescription insurance coverage gets more complex and more restrictive,” GoodRx stated. An analysis of Medicare Part D plans showed that the average insurance plan covered only 54% of the prescribed drugs. 

A GoodRx survey found that 1 in 4 Americans have at least one drug prescribed that their insurance policy does not cover. When individuals are forced to pay for medication, it worsens their financial situation and stress. 

Many Americans had a prescription that was sent to the pharmacy but not filled — the most common reason being that it was “too expensive,” the survey indicated. 

“This finding is alarming given that nonadherence, or not taking a medication as prescribed, can worsen chronic conditions,” the company said. 

“The high cost of medications can force people to make difficult choices between prioritizing their health and managing other essential expenses. In turn, this can potentially lead to poor health outcomes and increased costs in the long run.” 

The survey found that 23% of Americans spent more than $50 on prescriptions per month, with almost 10% spending more than $100. 

Drug Price Debate 

In February, CEOs of drug companies took part in a Senate committee hearing on the price of prescription medications. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, laid the blame for the high cost of drugs on Big Pharma. 

“The overwhelming beneficiary of high drug prices in America is the pharmaceutical industry,” he said. “The United States government does not regulate drug companies. With a few exceptions, the drug companies regulate the United States government.” 

Meanwhile, the CEOs blamed the health care system for large variations in list prices of medications. When Sanders asked Chris Boerner, CEO of Bristol Myers Squibb, whether the company would reduce the price of Eliquis, a blood thinner, in the United States to the same level as in Canada, the executive replied that it could not be done. 

Boerner said Canada and the United States have very different health care systems, which keeps the company from equalizing the prices. 

He noted that the pharma firm has paid billions of dollars in rebates to intermediates, which “unfortunately do not go to lowering the price of medicines.” 

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, criticized Sanders’ position on the issue, saying he was cherry-picking examples from other countries. 

“I could cherry-pick the opposite,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced on June 26 that people enrolled in Medicare will pay less for 64 drugs available through Part B plans. 

As the companies that produce the 64 drugs were deemed to have raised prices faster than the inflation rate, the coinsurance rate for these medications will be lowered, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated. 

White House domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden said, “The Biden-Harris Administration will continue fighting to bring down the cost of health care and prescription drugs for all Americans.” 

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