It’s Medicare enrollment time and as tens of millions of Americans figure out their Part D prescription plan, consider this: Seven of the costliest drugs paid for by the government healthcare plan had one-year price hikes of 17 percent on higher. Together, these hikes added almost $2 billion in costs for Medicare.
Reports show that Medicare covered $121.4 billion worth of drugs in 2014, the latest year for data. In fact, it paid out at least at least $1 billion each on 18 drugs that year. But seven already expensive drugs had the dubious distinction of topping the list of huge price hikes: psychiatric drug Abilify (up 17 percent); leukemia treatment Gleevec (19 percent); cholesterol med Zetia (21 percent); pain reliever Celebrex (22 percent); insulin med Lantus Solostar (28 percent); insulin med Lantus (41 percent); and pain med Lyrica (45 percent).
Medicare spent the most money on Gilead's hepatitis C medication Sovaldi, at a total cost of $3.1 billion, but it was one of two medications among the top 20 drugs that actually had a lower per-prescription price for that year The other was Duloxetine, for depression.
While Medicare provides prescription coverage for about 38 million people through Medicare Part D, prescription coverage, it cannot negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, according to law.
Healthcare advocates also say there’s a need for more transparency in the way drug companies set price. No wonder a growing number of Americans — almost three-quarters — believe prescription drug costs are unreasonable, and most want some kind of regulation to control drug price hikes, according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The cost of prescription drugs can be particularly daunting for seniors on fixed incomes.
"Something has to give with drug pricing," Philip Moeller, the author of "Get What's Yours for Medicare," told CBS MoneyWatch. "I'm not saying the only way to solve this is to give Medicare the right to negate drug prices, but it's fundamentally unfair for U.S. consumers to pay virtually all the global share of R&D in our drug prices."