GAO: Branded drug prices on the rise

WASHINGTON Prices of 416 branded drugs dramatically rose between 2000 and 2008, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office.

Among the drugs, which represent 0.5% of all branded drugs, the number of what the study called “extraordinary price increases” more than doubled each year during the period, ranging between 100% and 499%. One drug, an unnamed cancer treatment, experienced two such increases, going from $390 for a full course of treatment to $3,000. Most of the drugs were used to treat central nervous system disorders, infections and cardiovascular disease.

The report blamed the increases on a lack of therapeutically equivalent drugs, both generics and other branded drugs used to treat the same condition, though experts told the GAO that unusual events such as disruptions in production due to shortages of raw materials could contribute to the increases as well.

“The transfer of the rights to a drug and corporate consolidations among drug companies may result in fewer drug options and contribute to extraordinary price increases, according to experts,” the report read. “For example, the rights to four of the case-study drugs were obtained by a new drug company, and two of these drugs had an extraordinary price increase shortly after the rights to the drugs were purchased.”

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