The nearly 600 percent price increase of EpiPens is just the latest example of high-priced prescription drugs grabbing headlines and creating outrage among consumers.
More than three-quarters of Americans now say that prescription drug costs are unreasonable, and most support regulatory changes aimed at controlling drug price hikes and increasing transparency around how pharmaceutical firms set prices, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Americans spent an average of $858 per person on prescription drugs in 2013, according to the most recent data from the Organisation for Economic Development, a figure that has likely gone up since then given recent trends in medical expenditures. That’s more than twice the average amount spent per capita in 19 other industrialized nations included in the report.
For Americans with certain health issues, the price can be far higher. A recent GoodRx list of the most expensive prescription drugs in America finds 10 medications that cost more than $30,000 for one month’s supply. Half the drugs on the list are used to treat hepatitis C.
While health insurance often covers a large share of these costs, consumers -‑ particularly those with high-deductible plans -- can still have to pay several thousand dollars out of pocket. And the high costs paid by insurance companies end up driving up premiums for all health consumers.
Current regulations allow pharmaceutical companies to set such prices because of the monopoly that they hold on producing new drugs while they’re protected under long-term patents.