prescription drug prices

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On Aug. 3, Zach Matheny’s blood thinning medication was filled at his pharmacy, and sent out for delivery via the U.S. Postal Service. It never arrived at his home in Columbus, Ohio.

Side Effects has been picked to join other public radio collaborations in America Amplified - Election 2020, a national initiative designed to produce innovative reporting by listening to community concerns.  

Courtesy of Dr. Marty Makary

The United States spends more than $3 trillion on health care every year. That comes out to about double the spending per person than other wealthy nations—yet with worse health outcomes in comparison.


Déjà Voodoo: Pharma’s Promises To Curb Drug Prices Have Been Heard Before

Jul 25, 2018
Photo licensed under CC0. https://pixabay.com/en/pills-dispenser-pills-medicine-966334/

Prescription drug prices were soaring. Angry policymakers swore they’d take action. Pharma giant Merck responded by promising to address the problem voluntarily, vowing to keep price increases under the overall rate of inflation.

“We believe these moderate increases are a responsible approach, which will help to contain costs,” the Merck CEO said at the annual shareholders meeting.

That assurance wasn’t made last week, when multiple drug companies offered similar pledges amid similar criticism. It was nearly three decades ago, in 1990.

Costs Of Widely Prescribed Drugs Jumped 5,241 Percent In Recent Years

Nov 29, 2016
Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Jess Franz-Christensen did not realize the seriousness of her son’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis until staff in the doctor’s office offered to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Her next shock: The cost of Jack’s medicines.

The Mercenary Markets of U.S. Health Care

Aug 24, 2016
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I never thought that I’d consider buying drugs from Canada. For years I’ve heard rumors about people getting medications from over the border, and now I find myself considering it. You see, we spent $2800 of our health plan’s $3500 deductible on EpiPens this Spring. And since those EpiPens are only good for about a year, we’ll spend another $2800 (or more) next Spring. And then again the Spring after that. And so on.

Connecticut's Low-Income Diabetics Paying High Price For Insulin

Apr 13, 2016

The high cost of insulin, which has risen by triple-digit percentages in the last five years, is endangering the lives of many diabetics who can’t afford the price tag, say Connecticut physicians who treat diabetics.

Talking about money is never easy. But when doctors are reluctant to talk about medical costs, patients' health can be undermined.

A study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs explores the opportunities that are often missed in the exam room.

It's not just patients who are getting tired of ever rising drug prices. Doctors are joining the chorus of frustration.

The latest voice? The American College of Physicians, whose membership includes 143,000 internal medicine doctors. It published a position paper Monday calling for the government and industry to take steps to rein in spiraling costs.

Medicare is going to test new ways to reimburse doctors for medications, in hopes they'll choose less expensive drugs.

The plan would alter Medicare Part B, which pays for medicines administered in doctors offices or outpatient hospital clinics — to eliminate incentives for doctors to use the most expensive drugs.

Bad Packaging Means $3 Billion In Drugs Will Be Wasted This Year

Mar 1, 2016
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D Gorenstein

Patients, insurance companies and the federal government are on track to spend about $3 billion this year on cancer drugs that will be thrown away, according to a report on pharmaceutical company profits in BMJ – formerly known as the British Medical Journal – that was released Tuesday.

At the same time, drug makers, hospitals and doctors are profiting from the way these drugs are packaged, researchers found.

At his office at Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan – a leading cancer center – Dr. Leonard Saltz shows off a drug.

A memo from congressional investigators sheds new light on the inner workings of Martin Shkreli's Turing Pharmaceuticals after the company jacked up the prices of a decades-old drug used to treat AIDS patients.

The House Committee on Oversight and Investigations is looking into Turing and other drug companies' price increases. This memo, released Tuesday, includes excerpts from the company's internal documents and emails.

Steve Miller has some customers on offer. Millions of them in fact.

The chief medical officer at Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit manager in the U.S., has been essentially auctioning off his 80 million customers to the drug companies that will give him the best deal.

"Who wants my market share?" Miller says. "Whoever will give me the best price, I will reward you with an enormous amount of market share."

AMA Calls For Ban On Rx Drug Ads

Nov 19, 2015
Boston Public Library

The U.S. is  one of only two countries in the world that allow prescription drug companies to advertise directly to consumers. In a statement issued Tuesday, the American Medical Association called for a ban on such ads, claiming that advertising drives up the costs of prescription medications, as the Verge reports. 

Medicare Spending for Hepatitis C Cures Surges

Oct 21, 2015

Medicare's prescription drug program spent nearly $4.6 billion in the first half of this year on expensive new cures for the liver disease hepatitis C  - almost as much as it spent for all of 2014.

Rebates from pharmaceutical companies 2014 the amounts of which are confidential 2014 will reduce Medicare's final tab for the drugs, by up to half. Even so, the program's spending will likely continue to rise, in part because of strong demand.

How To Save Money On Prescription Drugs, Insured Or Not

Sep 16, 2015

If you haven't experienced it yourself, you've no doubt heard about the outrageous — and rapidly growing — prices of certain prescription medications.

The average price for about one year of cancer-drug therapy has skyrocketed from $10,000 or less before 2000 to more than $100,000 by 2012, according to a recent Mayo Clinic study.

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Lower Is Better: Results of A Blood Pressure Study Could Save Lives 

Findings were so strong that researchers ended the study a year early, as The Washington Post reports

Chris Porter via Stockmonkeys.com/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) announced plans Thursday to introduce new legislation intended to lower drug prices and increase Americans’ access to prescription medications.

Healthcare Expenditures Are Picking Up Again

Jul 29, 2015
D Gorenstein

When it comes to healthcare, it’s generally understood we have a spending problem. Namely, we spend too much.

A new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services suggests expenditures are picking back up after a recent historic slowdown.

But even with the uptick, these numbers suggest the nation is making progress.

Happy 50th Birthday, Medicare. Your Patients Are Getting Healthier

Jul 28, 2015

Here's a bit of good news for Medicare, the popular government program that's turning 50 this week. Older Americans on Medicare are spending less time in the hospital; they're living longer; and the cost of a typical hospital stay has actually come down over the past 15 years, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.