Prescription Drug Companies Are Raising Prices on Older Medicines

January 18, 2019, 2:39 PM UTC

Prescription drug prices have become one of the “hottest political issues” of 2019, according to the Indianapolis Star. And drug manufacturers keep adding fuel to the fire.

Companies have sharply raised prices on older drugs in the face of shortages and recalls, the Wall Street Journal reported. Some of the medicines are now triple or more their previous cost.

Out of 120 drugs that the FDA listed as in short supply, a third raised prices after the shortages began. The manufacturers argue that the prices only reflect their own higher expenses to fill shortages.

Drug price increases have become a regular feature of the U.S. health care system. Pfizer planned hikes on 41 drugs in November 2018, only months after Donald Trump criticized a previous announcement in July 2018. The company backed off at the time.

An analysis in early January 2019 showed that dozens of drugmakers planned average price increases of 6.3% on more than 250 drugs. The inflation rate in 2018 was 1.9%.

Drug manufacturers argue that the real price people see is typically lower, with discounts arranged by pharmacy plan. But even with price reductions, the final cost can still rise. And for people who lack insurance that covers medicines, the prices can be significant.

Criticism from the Trump administration has been heavy. Both Donald Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar have repeatedly criticized prices and said that lower drug prices are a major goal. On January 9, Azar tweeted, “For those listening in the pharmaceutical industry: The list price increases must stop. Prices must start coming down.”