Spotlight Shines Brightly on Exorbitant Prices of Specialty Drugs


At its core, the cost of health insurance is a reflection of the cost of health care. That’s why so many are concerned about the skyrocketing price of specialty pharmaceuticals in America. And now, with the indefensibly-priced drug Sovaldi breaking sales records, this scary trend is garnering more and more attention.


CNBC may have put it best this week when it reported, “The mounting scrutiny of prescription drug prices in the U.S. reached fever pitch when a new drug for hepatitis C was priced at about $1,000 a day.”


And as NPR reported, “Some activists are beginning to complain about the company’s decision to charge so much for the drug. ‘For Gilead [Sovaldi's maker], we have outrage, pure and simple,’ Michael Weinstein of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation told Business Wire.”


What’s more, “The costs are hitting Medicaid programs extraordinarily hard because the population of patients in need of Sovaldi tend to have low incomes and wouldn’t be able to afford it without the government insurance,” according to a Forbes report.


And as CNBC noted, “Sovaldi’s not alone. Spending on specialty medicines, for diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, helped boost total spending on prescription drugs last year 3.2 percent, to $329.2 billion…Cancer drugs, in particular, have seen prices soar.”


Drugs like Sovaldi are critically important and represent great advances in medicine. Yet, as AHIP’s Dan Durham said on PBS last night, “We’re facing a public health crisis in this country with Hepatitis C, and to deal effectively with that type of crisis, stakeholders need to react responsibly. Price gouging is not acting responsibly. Charging a $1,000 a pill – $84,000 for a course of treatment – is not acting responsibly. Asking for blank check is not acting responsibly.”


And “we can’t give anyone anymore a blank check in the health care system,” AHIP CEO and President Karen Ignagni said this week.


Asked whether there’s hope for a lower price, a spokesman for the drug’s maker said only, “That’s very unlikely that we would do that. I appreciate the thought.”


What Americans would appreciate is specialty drug makers sitting down with other stakeholders to find a solution to this unsustainable problem – before the government feels it has to.

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