Brand-name drug companies increase prices for third consecutive year

WASHINGTON Pharmaceutical companies increased wholesale prices for the 50 top-selling branded drugs by an average of 7.82 percent in 2007, after increases of 6.73 percent and 6.22 percent in the previous two years, according to Delta Marketing Dynamics. The Delta Marketing figures represent the wholesale acquisition cost, which is the manufacturers’ list price for a drug; it doesn’t reflect underlying rebates and discounts given to wholesalers and large purchasers, such as health insurers and pharmacy-benefit managers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Some individual drugs had double-digit price increases over three years. GlaxoSmithKline raised the price of antidepressant Wellbutrin XL by 44.5 percent from 2005 to 2007. Sanofi-Aventis raised the price of sleep drug Ambien 70.1 percent. Shire increased the price of its attention-deficit disorder medication, Adderall XR, by 33.5 percent, while the price of cholesterol-fighting Lipitor, the world’s top-selling drug, which brought in roughly $13 billion last year for Pfizer, rose 16 percent.

The companies are doing this in part, to shift patients toward next generation drugs. One example is with Ambien. The price was raised before the drug lost its patent protection in hopes of making patients move to a less expensive drug, Ambien CR, which is patent protected for several more years.

This hasn’t gone past the government and all the remaining presidential candidates have plans to change the pharmaceutical industry to better help consumers.

Sen. John McCain’s, R-Ariz., health care plan includes a provision to “develop safety protocols that permit reimportation to keep competition vigorous.” Reimportation refers to allowing drugs exported to other countries to be brought back into the U.S. market to circumvent pharmaceutical companies’ high prices.

Meanwhile, Sens. Hilary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., have supported giving the federal government, which currently is excluded by law from directly negotiating with drug makers, the power to negotiate prices for the Medicare Part D drug program.

Of course, the pharmaceutical industry is against all the views of the candidates and would prefer things to remain as they are.

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