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Drug Pricing

A New Focus on Prescription Drug Spending

A chorus of concern over the cost of prescription drugs for both patients and the health system has been growing louder. Spending on prescription drugs surged 13% last year to a record $374 billion, according to a report from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. That’s the largest increase in the pace of prescription drug spending since 2000-2001, when drug spending rose by 16%, and significantly faster than the 6.8% spending growth projected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Much of the attention has been focused on 2 new drugs introduced by Gilead Sciences in 2013 (Solvadi; the highest-selling drug in 2014 at $7.9 billion, according to the IMS report) and 2014 (Harvoni) for treating hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, as well as other new biologic or specialty drugs for cancer, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. The recommendation by a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel in June 2015 to approve 2 injectable cholesterol-lowering drugs is certain to keep the questions that are raised by the costs of these new drug types front and center.

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