January 2, 2018 News

Detroit Free Press: Prescription drug prices kept rising in 2017, but greater scrutiny contained them a bit

January 1

JC Reindl

We are still losing the battle to contain fast-rising drug prices in Michigan and across the country, but increased scrutiny of pricey pharmaceuticals led to some minor victories in 2017 for more affordable health care, according to several of Michigan’s larger insurers.

Prices for many popular branded drugs that made big jumps in recent years, such as insulin and rheumatoid arthritis treatments, experienced more modest increases in 2017 — although increases were still well above the general inflation rate of around 2%.

That was largely because drugmakers including AbbieVie, Allergan, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi publicly pledged to keep their drug price increases at 10% or less in 2017.

“We have seen a little bit slower increase in prices this year due to public pressure,” said Tony Petitta, a vice president with Health Alliance Plan. “Many drug companies have publicly stated they’re going to keep it under 10% per year, which is still pretty high … where before they were going up 14%, 15%, sometimes 20%.”

Those vows to cap price increases came amid a public uproar against pharmaceutical price spikes.

There was intense media coverage when prices for a two-pack of EpiPens (used to treat potentially fatal allergic reactions) zoomed from $160 to more than $600, and when Turing Pharmaceuticals — a company helmed by young, brash CEO Martin Shkreli — hiked the price of an old drug used by AIDS and cancer patients from $13.50 to $750 per tablet.

In addition, lawmakers and political candidates made noise in 2016 about reining in drug prices, including President Donald Trump, who as president-elect said the pharmaceutical industry was “getting away with murder” and needed reform.


Patients For Affordable Drugs is the only independent national patient organization focused exclusively on achieving policy changes to lower the price of prescription drugs.