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Drug manufacturers ring in the new year with higher prices

Hundreds of medications have increased by an average of 6.3 percent

George Frey/Getty Images

The cost of hundreds of pharmaceuticals produced by major drug makers increased by an average of 6.3 percent with the ringing of the new year, according to an analysis by RX Savings Solutions, a company that helps companies and insurers choose the lowest cost medications.

Many of the increases, which affect the drug's list price, are modest, while others — including some generics — are significantly higher this year, the Wall Street Journal reported.

List prices are set by manufacturers and don't include discounts, rebates, or insurance payments. Generics are a lower cost alternative to name brand pharmaceuticals and account for about 90 percent of the prescriptions filled in the U.S.

Which companies?

Allergan raised prices on 51 medications, more than half of its products, the company confirmed in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. The company manufactures commonly prescribed medications, including Alzheimer's drug Namenda and a dry-eye treatment called Restasis.

Twenty-seven Allergan products increased by about 9.5 percent and another two dozen went up by 4.9 percent.

Allergan had the most increases on products, of all the companies analyzed by RX Savings Solutions.

The generic drugmaker, Hikma Pharmaceuticals, raised the cost of morphine by 10 percent, blood pressure medication enalaprilat by 30 percent and anesthetic ketamine by 20 percent.

A spokesman for Hikma told the Journal that the three drugs' cost increases are relatively small and come to less than $1 per vial, adding that some of the company's medications saw decreases in cost.

"These are small increases that enable us to continue operating a sustainable business that serves hospitals, doctors and patient needs for high-quality medications," spokesman Steve Weiss said.

GlaxoSmithKline PLC confirmed to the newspaper that it increased prices on 36 medications. None of which was more than 3 percent.

The company told the Journal it's "committed to providing differentiated, needed medicines and price them according to the value they bring to patients, while being sensitive to the market and societal expectations."

Why do prices keep going up?

RX Savings Solutions CEO Michael Rea believes the continued rise in drug costs is due to the lack of market accountability.

"The reason it can keep happening is there is no market check, no person or entity to bring reason to determining drug prices," Rea told the Journal.

What else?

Prescription medication costs are expected to be one of the top issues for Democrats when they take control of the House of Representatives this week.

Drug manufacturers have faced pressure from the Trump administration, as well as patients and insurers, as price increases have outpaced inflation.

The Trump administration recently proposed the idea of including a drug's list price in TV advertising as a way to establish cost transparency, FiercePharma reported.

Many companies agreed that price transparency could be beneficial but they also agreed that using a drug's list price could cause more confusion than help for consumers.

List pricing is often much higher than the cost paid by consumers.

One last thing…
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