Competition has done little to keep the lid on rising pharmaceutical prices for brand-name products, especially insulins and anti-inflammatory drugs, and costs will continue to rise unless action is taken, according to a recent Scripps Research Translational Institute paper.

Scripps Research Translational Institute has produced a sobering report revealing that biopharmaceutical market competition does little to influence drug pricing. In fact, it would appear in some cases as competition intensifies, prices increase rather than decrease as one would expect from the standard laws of economics. The Scripps initiative studied 49 of the top selling US brand-name drugs with more than $500 million in US sales or $1 billion in worldwide sales.

What Drugs are Most Expensive?

There were great price increases for Insulins such as Novolog (Novo Nordisk) and Humalog (Lilly) as well as basal insulin Lantus (Sanofi). Anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drugs also skyrocketed including etanercept (Amgen), Enbrel (Amgen) and adalimumab/Humira (AbbVie). Both insulins and anti-TNFs have doubled in costs.

Some Price Drivers

The insulin producers have been singled out for potential price fixing. In fact TrialSite News covered the insulin topic and found that the cost of insulins tripled form 2012 to 2016. The analysis from the Healthcare Cost Institute found that the price gauging was exposing patients to too much risk. We shouldn’t forget that many patients dependent on insulin-based treatments are in the low to middle socio-economic strata. Drug makers have been accused of price fixing and the three primary targets of Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi are presented being challenged in court for alleged price gouging.

Life in the anti-TNF lane isn’t getting cheaper or slower either. It is well documented why AbbVie’s Humira’s price continues to rise: the Chicagoland-based group’s near monopolistic grip on certain markets thanks to its brilliant patent strategy. It has engineered one of the most intricate and effective patent thickets in drug history. As bad as it sounds, we can’t help but be somewhat in awe as to how they pulled off such an elaborate, sophisticated, and knotty (and what will probably be deemed completely legal) scheme. What does this do? It has delayed competition, especially in U.S. markets for Humira competitors. Now one group, privately-held, German Boehringer Ingelheim has declared enough is a enough and filed a lawsuit to challenge AbbVie’s  claims in the hopes of penetrating and taking down the thicket. It could be a long and painful fight. But in the meantime AbbVie will monetize to the fullest.

What About Generics?

We all are told that generic drugs are supposed to drive prices down. Even this model is severely strained of late—when it was revealed that there is a massive, multi-state lawsuit against the generic producers for coordinated, illegal price-fixing schemes. See the article recently covered by TrialSite News. 44 states’ Attorney Generals are coming after generic companies and executives.

Conclusion

American consumers should become wiser about their healthcare.  We have evolved into a hyper-paced, winner-take-all market society. On the other hand, docile and somewhat entitled. Although government gets more involved with many aspects of our life it ultimately can be a tool for who organizes, lobbies and ultimately spends money. Healthcare becomes drive by value-based models and a well-functioning market will be conditioned upon a sizeable enough proportion of the population that educates itself. TrialSite News is part of the transparency movement. Those that are interested in keeping up on matters having to do with clinical research with a focus on the research site. We are delighted to see more and more patients signing up to our newsletter. Should there be special requests for PriceWatch research we will surely accommodate.

Source: The Center for Biosimilars

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