Newly-launched U.S. drugs head toward record-high prices in 2022

  • The median annual price for new US drugs this year is $257,000
  • Eight of 13 drugs launched in 2022 cost more than $200,000 a year
  • Some drugmakers are disclosing less pricing information

Aug 15 (Reuters) – Drugmakers are launching new drugs at record prices this year, a Reuters analysis shows, underscoring their pricing power even as Congress moves to slash the annual bill by more than $500 billion dollars for prescription drugs in the United States.

At the same time, some pharmaceutical makers are disclosing less information about the prices of these treatments, which have come under greater scrutiny in recent years, Reuters found.

“In the United States, we allow drugmakers to freely set the prices of all brand-name drugs,” Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told Reuters.

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The median annual price of 13 new drugs approved for chronic diseases by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so far this year is $257,000, Reuters found.

They were in good company: seven other newly launched drugs cost more than $200,000. Three other drugs launched in 2022 are only used intermittently and were not included in the calculation.

Last year, the median annual price rose to $180,000 for the 30 drugs first marketed through mid-July 2021, according to a study recently published in JAMA.

Although the Reuters tally does not fully replicate the work of this study, it does show that the price direction for new drugs continues to be upward.

The JAMA study also excluded medications used intermittently. It included an adjustment to account for the fact that drugs for very rare diseases have higher prices, which Reuters did not.

The pharmaceutical industry says the prices of new drugs, many of which now treat rare diseases for which there is no cure, reflect their value to patients, including the ability to avoid costly emergency room visits and hospital stays. to the hospital.

Drugmakers also point out that they don’t determine what US patients end up paying for the drugs.

“Each person’s individual (health) insurer and plan will determine the out-of-pocket costs,” Eli Lilly & Co said in response to a question about the $12,700 annual price of its new diabetes drug Mounjaro, adding that the company offers savings cards. to reduce these costs to as little as $25 per month.

“AN ATTEMPT AT DISTRACTION”

At the same time, information on drug prices has become more difficult to confirm. Reuters asked for price data from the 15 companies that launched new drugs this year.

Six of the manufacturers either did not respond to a request for pricing details or initially provided only partial information, such as a “per vial” cost, rather than an annual cost based on average usage per bottle. the patient, as they had done in the past.

Sanofi (SASY.PA) said its new drug Enjaymo, used to treat a rare type of anemia, was priced at $1,800 per bottle. When pressed further, the French healthcare group clarified that the typical annual price is $280,800.

Immunocore (IMCR.O) initially only disclosed a “per bottle” price for melanoma drug Kimmtrak, and Dermavant Sciences only gave a “per tube” price for its new psoriasis cream. Bristol Myers Squibb (BMY.N) quoted a “per infusion” price for the cancer treatment Opdualag. All three eventually provided annual awards.

CTI BioPharma (CTIC.O) referred Reuters to a third-party database, but then gave a monthly price for its treatment for the rare Vonjo anemia. Mycovia Pharmaceuticals said that “as a private company” it would not provide price information for its antifungal drug Vivjoa.

Dr Ameet Sarwaptwari, a Harvard University professor specializing in health law, said such incomplete disclosure could be “an attempt to distract” from the high annual costs.

Some drug manufacturers, in response, claim that treatment costs can vary depending on patient weight and other factors, making it difficult to estimate prices for an average patient.

Congress passed the landmark $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act last week, which includes a cap on annual drug price increases and allows the Medicare program for seniors to negotiate prices. of up to 20 of the drugs on which he spends the most.

The bill, however, does not limit what drugmakers can charge for new drugs. Some industry experts say this could make manufacturers even more dependent on higher introductory prices.

“The industry is going to look to new drugs to try to use the leverage that remains unchecked,” said Daniel Ollendorf, of the Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at Tufts Medical Center.

JAMA’s published study of drug prices showed that between 2008 and 2021, introductory drug prices in the United States increased by 20% per year.

On a net basis, which takes into account volume-based discounts and other discounts that health insurers negotiate with drugmakers, prices for new drugs have risen 11% annually, according to the study by health insurers. researchers from the Boston-based Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Reuters did not calculate a comparable increase for 2022 because these discounts are not made public.

Discounts and rebates are often demanded by payers of new drugs once competing treatments become available. As patents expire, lower-cost generics are also mitigating inflation in prescription drug prices, which in the 12 months to July rose 2.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor. Statistics.

“The vast majority of drugs Americans use are generics,” said Rena Conti, an associate professor at Boston University’s business school. Drugs for illnesses with few treatment options are the most expensive, she said.

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Reporting by Deena Beasley in Los Angeles; Editing by Caroline Humer, Michele Gershberg and Deepa Babington

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