Prescription Drug Costs

May 20, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 20
Do research expenses justify eye-popping prices?
By Leslie Allen


Martin Shkreli (Getty Images/Mark Wilson)
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, invoked his 5th Amendment right not to testify at a Feb. 4 congressional committee hearing examining prescription drug price gouging. After acquiring the rights to manufacture the life-saving generic drug Daraprim, Turing raised its price by 5,000 percent. (Getty Images/Mark Wilson)

Recent high-profile Senate hearings have highlighted a phenomenon many Americans know well: the soaring price of prescription drugs, some needed to keep patients alive. New blockbusters routinely cost more than $100,000 for a course of treatment, and similar “me too” drugs for the same conditions later launch at almost identical prices. Drug manufacturers blame the rising cost of research and development, but critics blame excessive profit-seeking and exorbitant marketing budgets. Meanwhile, prices for some common, decades-old generics also are rising as competition in that part of the industry collapses. The price of the antibiotic tetracycline, for example, rose more than 7,500 percent in two years. A majority of Americans say keeping drug prices affordable should be the top national health care priority, and all three remaining presidential candidates have promised relief. To help slow the rising costs, states are introducing bills and ballot measures to require drug makers to disclose their actual costs and, in some cases, cap prices.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
May 20, 2016  Prescription Drug Costs
Oct. 11, 2013  Regulating Pharmaceuticals
Oct. 09, 2009  Medication Abuse
Mar. 11, 2005  Drug Safety
Jun. 06, 2003  Drug Company Ethics
Sep. 03, 1999  Drugmakers Under Siege
Jul. 17, 1992  Prescription Drug Prices
Nov. 25, 1959  High Price of Drugs
Antitrust and Monopolies
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Copyright and Patents
Medicaid and Medicare
Medical Research and Advocacy