It’s no surprise that with pressure from shareholders, drug companies must find new ways to continue increasing profits. However, recent double-digit increases in the cost of medications is putting many dependent Americans in a tough position.
On one side, the cost of brand name drugs continues to rise, forcing many to consider cheaper generics or causing most insurance companies to push generic alternatives on patients whenever possible.
On the other, however, is a lingering problem that many don’t know about: those taking generic drugs have no legal recourse against manufacturers for serious side effects.
This month, data watchdog Truveris released their annual National Drug Index, charting the movement of prices for 2014. In, they concluded that drug prices as a whole went up an astonishing 11% last year.
To no surprise, the skyrocketing prices were led by brand name medications, which jumped 14.8% for the year. But even the normally cheap generic alternatives rose almost 5% in cost, fueled by rising demand from insurers.
Specifically, pain medications had the biggest cost increase, with a rise of 29.8%. Other drug types contributing to the price hike were anti-inflammatories, COPD meds and heart treatments.
One reason for the increase, noted FiercePharma, is the price restraints put in place on drug prices in Europe. This leaves companies looking to the United States to recoup much of their R&D costs and profits. And, the real jumps are expected to affect newly released cancer medications more than any other segment, which will hit those who need drugs the most the hardest.
To control the costs, many insurers are negotiating exclusive deals with drugmakers that leave patients with little choice of what drugs they can take. That is, if they are even allowed to choose a name brand drug.
Close to 75% of all patients choose, or are forced to choose, generic versions of drugs by insurance plans. Based on a 2011 Supreme Court decision though, generic manufacturers can’t be sued for side effects caused by their products like name brand manufacturers can.
The reason is the generic makers aren’t currently allowed to change warnings labels once they are set in place by the name brand maker. The FDA is working to change the archaic rule to give consumers more freedom of information and access to the courts, but they are meeting stiff resistance from generic makers that enjoy blanket legal protection.
For now, consumers will continue to pay more each year for their prescription drugs, and their legal rights will continue to be eroded by business-minded lawmakers.
Before starting any new medication, make sure you talk with your doctor about all the risks, and do some research on the published side effects. Also check with DrugNews about any pending side effect litigation.
Silverman, E. Prices for Prescription Medicines Rose How Much Last Year? The Wall Street Journal. (January 26, 2015). Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/pharmalot/2015/01/26/prices-for-prescription-medicines-rose-how-much-last-year/
Helfand, C. Branded Drug Prices Leapt Almost 15% Last Year, Led By Pain Pills, COPD and Heart Meds. FiercePharma. (January 29, 2015). Retrieved from http://www.fiercepharma.com/story/branded-drug-prices-leapt-almost-15-last-year-led-pain-pills-copd-and-heart/2015-01-29?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal
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