Big Pharma Corporate Greed Health Jake Johnson

Big Pharma Has Raised Drug Prices 1,186 Times This Year, Analysis Shows

"We must put an end to drug corporations' unfettered ability to dictate prices at the expense of patients."
Demonstrators protest pharmaceutical companies’ lobbying against drug price reforms in Washington, D.C. on September 21, 2021. (Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry exercised its virtually unlimited pricing power to hike costs for patients again this month as Senate Democrats made progress toward a limited deal to regulate out-of-control prescription drug prices, which are forcing millions of people to ration their medication or go without it entirely.

A new analysis released Wednesday by Patients for Affordable Drugs estimates that pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. have raised drug prices 1,186 times so far this year, further padding their bottom lines while intensifying the already overwhelming cost burden for patients.

Patients for Affordable Drugs found that between June 24 and July 5, pharmaceutical companies increased prices for 133 products. Pfizer, for instance, hiked the cost of its leukemia medication Besponsa again this month, bringing its per-vial price tag to $21,056.

“This is Pfizer’s fourth hike on the cancer drug during the Covid-19 pandemic—even as the company enjoys record-shattering profits from its vaccine,” the analysis notes.

The patient group also spotlighted Amgen’s price hikes for its autoimmune disease drug Enbrel. The California-based firm’s price increases for the medication have exceeded even the record-high U.S. inflation rate.

Amgen’s two price hikes for Enbrel this year alone are particularly brazen given that the company has faced recent congressional scrutiny over its business practices.

“Americans are struggling with record inflation and the continued challenges of a pandemic,” David Mitchell, the founder of Patients for Affordable Drugs, said in a statement. “Yet Big Pharma continues to raise drug prices with no regard for the health and financial well-being of Americans.”

Mitchell, a patient with incurable blood cancer whose drugs come with an annual list price of more than $900,000, argued that the pharmaceutical industry’s “latest price hikes demonstrate again why the Senate must stand up for the American people and pass the comprehensive drug pricing reforms in the reconciliation package.”

“These reforms are overwhelmingly supported by Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike, and the votes are there to pass the package immediately,” said Mitchell. “We must put an end to drug corporations’ unfettered ability to dictate prices at the expense of patients.”

Earlier this month, Senate Democrats unveiled 190 pages of legislative text containing their plan to require Medicare to negotiate the prices of a small subset of prescription drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies. The proposal also includes other measures to limit costs, such as a $2,000-a-year cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug payments for Medicare Part D enrollees.

But as The American Prospect‘s David Dayen noted earlier this month in a detailed look at the plan—which has predictably drawn opposition from the pharmaceutical industry—the legislation’s scope is highly restricted.

“In earlier versions of the bill, the negotiated prices would have been accessible to all insurance payers,” Dayen observed. “But in this bill, the prices are only available to Medicare recipients. Part B (for drugs given at hospitals) and Part D (the Medicare prescription drug benefit) drugs that Medicare spends high amounts on are eligible.”

“The drugs eligible for negotiation also have to be at least 7 to 11 years beyond their approval stage, meaning that there’s still an exclusivity buffer where newer drugs can charge whatever they want,” he continued. “Since no drug can get a negotiated price at launch, this is likely to lead to higher launch prices.”

Launch prices are already in the stratosphere: Research published last month showed that nearly half of all new brand-name prescription drugs launched in the U.S. in 2020 and 2021 had an initial price tag of $150,000 or more per year.

Ashley Suder, a patient in Morgantown, West Virginia who takes GSK’s Benlysta to manage her lupus, said that she’s had to spend “her entire paycheck” on her medications. That experience is all-too-common in the U.S., where patients spend far more on prescription drugs than their counterparts in other rich countries.

Accounting for the latest price hikes, Benlysta now carries a monthly price tag of $4,282.

“Without this drug, my immune system attacks my healthy tissue, resulting in painful inflammation that damages my skin, joints, blood vessels, and brain,” Suder said. “With the price increasing again, I worry about how I’ll make ends meet while still affording my drugs.”

Jake Johnson
Jake Johnson

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

12 comments

  1. doesn’t democrat party common dreams understand Francois quesney’s “invisible hand”?

  2. We can thank our politicians for pharmaceutical impunity for suits against them, so there is no excuse of having to pay off injured or dead clients. There are some truly justified reasons for the high prices, such as lobbying politicians for the vaccines being mandated, the costs in “paying for” the ability of the FDA to approve of the drugs which the pharmaceuticals test to assure their safety and efficiency at creating addictions and to manage illnesses (instead of curing them). And yes, the FDA is about 50% funded by pharmaceuticals, and it is their job to look at the tests that they pharmaceuticals exercised on the medicines that they themselves delivered. You can count on integrity and efficiency of these billionaires. Nobody gets rich without hard work, integrity and genius. *

    *A totally unproven statement. Caution, reading that sentence can cause nausea, coughing, headaches, uncontrollable laughter and trust problems

  3. Yet Democrats and many leftists have convinced themselves that these drug companies would never compromise safety and efficacy when it comes to vaccines.

  4. Over 50% of all US bankruptcies are medical bankruptcies.

    It is a crime and It should not take place in civilized world. That’s why it commonly happens in barbaric US.

    People bankrupt themselves to save life or health of those they love only to be robbed and betrayed by Big Parma capitalists masters of medical fraud and profitable deception operating with impunity.

    Dehumanization is the flagship product of Capitalism worser, meaning better, than torture or death.

    Humiliation, abandonment, disrespect of human dignity, psychological pain and suffering or fear of those top long list of evil capitalism produces in abundance.

    The US healthcare policies are products of capitalism of Big Pharma and Medical-Industrial Complex specializing in commodification and monetization of human life and human suffering . Even human organs are commodified and monetized by a third party.

    Big Pharma convicted felons and their Covid sham only brought explosion of already existing wide spread contempt to corporatized out of any humanity Medical profession and induced militant hatred to big Pharma death corporations and to cannibalism of their political puppets.

    Million+ doctors worldwide in last decade were bullied, forced out, fired by corporate bosses or quit as they refused to compromise their human morality and Hippocratic oath demanding from Doctors above all to bring no harm to patients as they knew by direct experience that many government mandated medical guidances result in no discernible benefits but only unnecessary, inevitable pain and suffering.

    With zero independent oversight, corruption of Medical school’s faculty “experts” literately owned by Big Pharma those doctors recognized that any application of so called FDA approved drug regimes, protocols or therapies amount to mass experimentation over unaware public and most vulnerable sick in violation of Nuremberg code, AMA ethical code and many state laws. To correct such situations, using blood money, Big Pharma bought many Federal and state courts too.

    I mean everything I wrote as I know that from decades long direct personal and family experience.

  5. Imagine this comment applied to any number of human needs, social justice issues, etc., in this dog-eat-rabid-dog capitalism.

    And the brain dead enter from right stage . . . the poison politicos take center stage . . . the 3000 billionaires come from the left . . . the War-Pharma-Ag-Prison-Bank-Investing-Insurance -IT complex descends from above.

    And so many posters see the end of the world, the human species, way easier and sooner than the death of Capitalism. Okay, now, move onto the next and the next and the next death by one thousands cuts.

    “Without this drug, my immune system attacks my healthy tissue, resulting in painful inflammation that damages my skin, joints, blood vessels, and brain,” Suder said. “With the price increasing again, I worry about how I’ll make ends meet while still affording my drugs.”

    replace . . . without this drug . . . with, “without this house, this public transportation, this school, this clean water, this grocery store, this A/C, this heater, this phone, this clean air, this clean soil, this quietude, this and that and this and that . . . .”

    Without those, no ends meet, and the painful inflammation of capitalism continues to damage my head, brain, skin, joints, blood vessels, stomach, liver, heart, kidneys, spine . . . . . ”

    Those fist-bumpers, and fisters, are all laughing all the way to the investment portfolio!

  6. I’d sure like to hear from a political savy, experienced, authentic progressive activist and anyone else with a clear bead about what must the citizenry do – besides voting for progressives – to raise such caine that these bullying robber barons –
    of the ilk which Jesus himself threw out of the temple – are harnessed and made to heel and learn their bullying powers have ended. Clearly, they are socially destructive in a significant way. Stealing public health. Is it time to nationalize the pharmaceutical industry? What size are the subsidies now going to Big Pharma?

  7. You are a slave to be used, exploited and discarded….after your life savings have been drained of course.

    Isn’t freedom and democracy grand.

    1. Land of the Free– free to be brainnwashed, exploited, enslaved and bankrupted.
      Home of the Brave– where 400 cops wait for more than an hour while kids are being slaughtered before going into subdue the killer.

      1. Man oh man. More McKinsey and Company Oxford Ango-Saxon-Trash, dumb as dirt, though bacteria in dirt have more, well, brains in a sense than this Pete Freak: So, all those people living in vans, living with three jobs and a clunker, no insurance, etc., just drop $60K on an EV compact. Right! Just go shopping, a la Bush after that old time religion of 9/11 a la Mossad.

        Quoting yet another loser, Pete:

        Soaring gas prices in the US are a “benefit” to owners of electric vehicles (EV), Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said while testifying before a House committee on Tuesday.

        Buttigieg suggested that people who are currently struggling to pay over $5 per gallon of gas could offset their “pain” by purchasing an EV instead, the average price of which is over $65,000 according to automotive research company Kelly Blue Book.

        “The more pain we are all experiencing from the high price of gas, the more benefit there is for those who can access electric vehicles,” the Biden administration official said before asking Republican Representative Carlos Gimenez (Florida) to subsidize EV purchases with tax credits.

        Gimenez replied by noting that subsidizing EVs would not make them any cheaper, contrary to Buttigieg’s claim, and that “we’re all paying for it at the end. We’re all paying taxes.”

        Another GOP representative, Thomas Massie (Kentucky), responded to Buttigieg’s suggestion by pointing out that buying electric cars would cost Americans more in energy and use even more fossil fuel-derived electricity.

        “It would take four times as much electricity to charge the average household’s cars as the average household uses on air conditioning,” Massie said.

    2. Just the drug dealers? Not the grocery store thieves? Not the hardware stores, the landlords, the bankers, the tuition tyrants, the entire mess that is medical rip-off incorporated? Right, let’s pick small pieces out of the diseased corpse of Capitalism.

  8. Part of the problem is the expensive costs of running the tests to gain FDA approval. Another is that research often has federal funding in the pipeline directly or indirectly.

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