PHARMACY

Brand-name drug companies increase prices for third consecutive year

BY Drew Buono

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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PHARMACY

Costco program delivers deep discounts to uninsured

BY Doug Desjardins

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco is enrolling up to 5,000 new members per week to its Costco Member Prescription Program that gives uninsured members deep discounts on hundreds of different prescription drugs.

The program launched at pharmacies last July and is now available in every state in the U.S. where Costco does business. “It’s kind of a unique program for our members who don’t have insurance,” said Costco VP of pharmacy Vic Curtis. “We work with our manufacturers and are able to offer members a discount through savings passed on either from the manufacturer or, in Costco’s case, from within our own margins.”

To qualify for the program, people need to be current Costco members and fill out a registration form confirming they don’t insurance.  To deliver the extra savings, Costco works with manufacturers to create a Preferred Drug List of branded and generic drugs that can be provided with a discount.

When filling a prescription for a program member, pharmacists check the list to see if the prescription is on it or search for a similar drug that serves the same need for less expense. “Our pharmacists have members check with their physicians to make sure a drug on the preferred list will work for them,” said Curtis.

Typical monthly savings on a 30-day supply of drugs is $15 but the savings vary. Curtis said the best example is a 30-day supply of Prevacid, which is available to program members for $101.17 at a cost savings of $49.58. On the lower end, members can save $7 on a one-month supply of Lunesta.

Curtis said Costco currently has 61,000 members in the program and hopes to enroll many more in the coming months. “Our goal is to eventually have 250,000 to 300,000 members enrolled in the program,” said Curtis.

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NextGen, Warburg look to partner on cancer drugs

BY Drew Buono

LONDON NextGen Bioscience and Warburg Glycomed are negotiating a deal to collaborate. Both are biotech companies focused on developing new drugs to fight various types of cancer.

Warburg Glycomed has a compound that is able to reprogram cancer cells by modulating their aerobic glucose metabolism, which affects their ability to grow. Warburg Glycomed has expressed keen interest in collaborating with NextGen in a recently signed letter of intent, and is confident that a deal can be arranged.

“These collaboration discussions with Warburg Glycomed represent progress on fulfilling our business goal to form international collaboration agreements with specialty research organizations,: Konstantinos Kardiasmenos, chief executive officer of NextGen, stated. “An alliance with Warburg Glycomed would strengthen both companies’ position to capture the phenomenal global market for therapeutic cancer agents, which is now reaching a volume of approximately $30 billion.”

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