Drug prices have spiraled out of control.
Between 2013 and 2015 alone, prescription drug spending skyrocketed 13 percent, and by last year we were spending $374 billion a year on drugs with no breaks in sight.
Now a study has revealed that the cost of one life-saving drug that millions of people depend on every single day (chances are someone you care about takes it) has shot up 300 percent in the last 10 years alone.
We’ll have more on that study in a moment, but first let’s take a quick look at how we got here.
New drugs hit the market at sky-high prices
These days it’s become routine for new drugs to hit the market at astronomically high prices. Drug companies keep pushing the envelope to see just how far they can take it, and the answer is stunningly far.
The cost of new cancer drugs, for example, has been rising 10 percent a year according to a study published in the Journal of Economic Perspective.1 So-called “breakthrough” cancer drugs can easily run you over 100,000 a year.
And estimates are that the new cholesterol meds that are soon to be released are expected to cost $10,000 a year.
So called orphan drugs—drugs which have limited market potential—and specialty drugs are ripe for price gouging.
A few short years ago drug developer Gilead proudly announced its new Hepatitis C Drug Solvadi would be hitting the market at $84,000 for a 12-week course.2 Which works out to an incredible $1,000 a pill!8
Biogen Idec’s multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera will set you back a whopping $54,900 a year. And Cystic Fibrosis sufferers will have to fork over a mind-boggling $259,000 a year for Orkambi.9
And then there’s the poster child for Wall Street greed Martin Shkreli. The former CEO of Turning Pharmaceuticals arbitrarily raised the prices on an AIDS drug 5,500 percent, taking a drug that once cost $13.50 a pill up to $750.2
Big Pharma’s bogus excuse for drug prices
Big Pharma’s standard defense for their sky-high drug prices has been to point to research and development (R&D) costs, saying it’s the only way they can afford the research required to bring the drugs to market.
In other words, according to industry spokesmen, they have to charge as much as they do to recoup their investment costs.
The trouble with that claim is that in many cases it simply doesn’t hold water.
For example, drug company Valeant—which came under fire last year—was spending less than 3 percent on R&D, yet raised their prices between 200 and 500 percent.2
And in fact, according to a study on drug prices conducted by Vinay Prasad. M.D.—chief fellow in Oncology at the National Cancer Institute—“… there is no rationale for drug prices. It’s not based on how novel they are, or how well they work. It’s based on what the market will bear.”5,1
In other words, as we said earlier, they’re pushing the envelope to see just how far they can go. Because the truth is if a drug is the only cure for a deadly disease… or the only treatment that provides relief… a drug company can—and will—charge as much as they want and still have customers.
The R&D cost excuse also falls flat in the face of older established drugs. It’s not just new drugs that are cleaning out our wallets.
Take the life-saving leukemia drug Gleevec for example. Gleevec cost a hefty $31,488 a year when it was approved in 2001. By 2015 that price had tripled in price to more than $110,000.8
Insulin costs have tripled in 10 years
And now a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has revealed that the cost of insulin—a naturally occurring hormone first discovered in 1921 and used by millions of type 1 and type 2 diabetic Americans3—has skyrocketed 300 percent in the last 10 years.4
Researchers from the University of Michigan gathered data on over 27,000 people who were being treated for diabetes to see what diabetes meds their insurance companies had paid for between 2002 and 2013.4
During the 10 year window studied, insulin costs jumped from $231 a year to $736. Yet the cost of other oral diabetes drugs studied didn’t rise as significantly, and in some cases they even dropped.
Drugs included in the study were…
- DPP-4 inhibitors,
- amylin analogs,
- GLP-1 receptor agonists,
- and sulfonylureas.
The switch from human insulin to newer analog man-made varieties, which are pricier, is part of the reason for the skyrocketing cost.
But the new drug argument alone doesn’t explain such a steep jump. For example, according to an investigation by MedPage Today the relatively old drug Humulin U-500 insulin was wholesaling at around $1,200 in 2014, more than 5 times its $220 price tag from 2007.6
Lack of competition may have initially allowed drug manufacturers to keep raising prices. But now with expiring patents and new specialty insulin drugs in the pipeline the looming competition, no doubt has some drug companies jacking up prices in preparation.
And then there are the drug payers like Express Scripts and CVS Caremark who pressure the drug companies into giving them deeper rebates to be included on their coverage lists. Drug companies in turn raise their costs even higher.7
But the bottom line is climbing drug prices aren’t showing any sign of slowing down. Things have gotten so bad that some folks now feel like they’ve got to choose between food and their meds.
4 solutions to skyrocketing drug prices
If you’re feeling the pinch of rising drug prices yourself don’t continue to take it lying down.
1. Contact Drug Companies Directly:
Many of the major drug companies have programs set up to help assist people who are struggling to afford their medications. Find out who the manufacturer of your drug is by searching for it online, and check their website for customer assistance programs.
Eli Lilly, for example, has the Lilly Cares program (you can call them at 1-800-545-6962) and Novo Nordisk offers the Novo Nordisk Patient Assistance Program (you can reach them at 1-866-310-7549).
2. Check Into Other Options:
Ask your doctor about less-costly alternative drugs or generic versions. In the case of insulin specifically if you are a type-2 diabetic with well-controlled blood sugar an older cheaper insulin may work just as well.
3. Make Some Noise:
Contact your representatives in D.C. and demand that more be done to cap drug price gouging. Remember, it’s an election year so they should be super-motivated to keep voters happy.
4. Ditch the Drugs:
Talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce or ditch your drugs entirely. If your doctor isn’t open to alternatives find an integrative or holistic doctor who is willing to work with you on a plan to get off the meds.
For type-2 diabetics in particular, you may be able to control your blood sugar naturally using a combination of…
- Diet changes: Switch to a low carb or Paleo style diet.
- Regular exercise: Try to get some movement every day and plan in 40 minutes to an hour of exercise 3 to 5 days a week.
- Supplements: A number of herbs, vitamins and nutrients have been shown to help support healthy blood sugar levels.
A few to consider are…
This mineral is needed for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels and low levels may contribute to elevated blood sugar.
This herb, also called Indian Barberry, targets the enzyme that spurs your cells to use insulin. It reportedly may help improve insulin sensitivity and may even help reduce the amount of glucose your liver produces.
Extracts from the leaves of this native Indian plant can help support healthy blood sugar and glucose metabolism.
This Brazilian medicinal mushroom can help boost your adiponectin levels, which could in turn improve your insulin sensitivity.
For more on these four supplements (including suggested dosages), and five other nutrients to beat blood sugar problems naturally, click here.
And be sure to take a look at our 9 step diabetes cure plan to get started on your ditch the drugs journey.
1. Skyrocketing Prices for Generic Drugs Compromise Health Care, 2015/12/08, usnews.com
2. What’s behind skyrocketing drug prices, 2015/12/21, cnbc.com
3. Number (in Millions) of Adults with Diabetes by Diabetes Medication Status, United States, 19 97–2011, cdc.gov
4. Cost of insulin tripled in just a decade: Study, 2016/04/05, upi.com
5. “Five Years of Cancer Drug Approvals: Innovation, Efficacy, and Costs,” JAMA Oncol. 2015;1(4):539-540. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.0373
6. Price Tag on Old Insulin Skyrockets, medpagetoday.com
7. Unpacking the Rising Cost of Insulin and What it Means for Patients, diatribe.org
8. Skyrocketing drug prices leave cures out of reach for some patients, 2015/06/14, usatoday.com
9. Rising Cost Of Drugs: Where Do We Go From Here?, 2015/08/31, healthaffairs.org
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