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Prescription price shock: OSU/OHSU study takes drug industry to task

Angie Mettie mettiea@ohsu.edu  Lead author Dan Hartung's study found that one drug that originally cost $8,700 now tops $62,000.

Angie Mettie mettiea@ohsu.edu  Lead author Dan Hartung's study found that one drug that originally cost $8,700 now tops $62,000.

Elizabeth Hayes Staff Reporter- Portland Business Journal
Health Care Inc. NW, Apr 24, 2015,

Drugs for treating multiple sclerosis have skyrocketed 700 percent in the past 20 years, even as newer drugs have come on the market, according to a study out today from researchers at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University.

“New drugs came on the market 30 to 50 percent higher than existing therapies, which ratcheted up their prices to meet the prices of the new drugs,” said Dan Hartung, the study’s lead author and an associate professor in the OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy.

First-generation drugs from the 1990s ranged from $8,000 to $10,000 a year. Today, all MS drugs cost at least $50,000 a year, well above inflation, Hartung said. One drug that originally cost $8,700 now tops $62,000.

The study highlights an industry driven by profits, using non-transparent pricing policies, and to a healthcare system that places no limits on the escalation. Also, many “biologics,” or specialty drugs, don’t come in cheaper generic forms.

The end result? Another industry that’s “too big to fail,” the authors assert.

The study also compared the U.S. to other countries. MS drugs here cost two to three times the list prices in Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom, where the governments purchase medications directly from vendors.

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