|WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new report issued today documents how drug companies use their market and political power to avoid competition and raise prices in lockstep, harming patients and costing Medicare billions of dollars. The report prepared by Patients For Affordable Drugs examines pricing history on two critical blood thinners, Eliquis and Xarelto. Manufacturers for the two drugs have raised prices every year, far outpacing the rate of inflation and leading to grave consequences for patients, insurers, and taxpayers.
The report traces the pricing history of BMS/Pfizer’s Eliquis and Johnson & Johnson’s Xarelto, the drug companies’ lockstep price hikes and patent gaming, and the implications and consequences for patients. The dynamic between Eliquis and Xarelto, which is emblematic of industry practices, further exposes the cost to Americans of Big Pharma’s unfettered pricing power and proves that Congress must pass drug pricing reforms that would empower Medicare to negotiate lower prices for certain drugs, including Xarelto, and prevent price increases on all drugs, such as Eliquis, from outpacing inflation.
“The fact that BMS/Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson have been able to make unjustified price increases to critical medicines like Eliquis and Xarelto for a decade proves just how broken our drug pricing system is,” said David Mitchell, a patient with incurable blood cancer whose drugs carry a list price of more than $900,000 per year and founder of Patients For Affordable Drugs. “This type of lockstep pricing behavior by Big Pharma is enabled by our laws and driven by greed at the expense of patients and taxpayers. The United States is the only country that allows drug companies to dictate prices by prohibiting Medicare from negotiating or constraining prices. The drug pricing reforms being considered by the Senate will change this. The Senate must get the job done and enact them.”
The new report shows that Eliquis and Xarelto first entered the market at over $200 for a month’s supply about a decade ago, and are now priced at $529 and $516, respectively. Both have increased in price by over 111 percent since market entry and were among the top 10 best-selling drugs in the world and top three most costly drugs for all of Medicare in 2020. They are priced five to 10 times higher in the United States compared to other countries. As a result, patients suffer grave health and financial consequences.
Ashley Suder of McMechen, WV, lives with lupus and relies on a number of expensive medications to treat her condition, including Eliquis. “I’ve had to spend my entire paycheck to get my prescription drugs,” Ashley, a nursing assistant currently attending nursing school, said. “One of those expensive drugs is Eliquis, which I take to prevent dangerous blood clots. I will be on it for the rest of my life. I often worry about how I’ll make ends meet while still affording my drugs. Without them, my life would be at real risk! It’s no way to live, but I don’t have a choice.”
Eliquis and Xarelto were groundbreaking medications when they first came to market, offering patients a safer blood thinner option than warfarin. But since there are no generic competitors for Eliquis and Xarelto, the manufacturers are able to dictate and raise prices at will. Consequently, patients are forced to choose between a safer medication and one they can afford.
Sheldon Armus of Boynton Beach, FL, takes Xarelto to prevent dangerous blood clots that could lead to heart attacks. Had the prices of Xarelto been held to the rate of inflation since 2013, it would now be priced at less than $300 for a month’s supply. Instead, Sheldon’s Xarelto is priced at over $500 for a 30-day supply. “I used to work in pharmaceutical sales, and I have been in meetings where we discussed pricing,” said Sheldon, a Medicare beneficiary who underwent quadruple bypass surgery one month after retiring. “I know firsthand that companies set prices at the highest price the market will accept. It’s outrageous and unfair.”
The dynamic between Xarelto and Eliquis is not unique. Millions of patients take medications sold by manufacturers who do everything in their power to avoid competition through collusive and unchecked price increases and abuse of our patent system to thwart would-be generic competitors.
The comprehensive drug pricing reforms under consideration by the Senate would curb BMS/Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson’s price hikes. These reforms would, for the first time, authorize Medicare to negotiate prices directly for some of the most expensive prescription medicines, including Xarelto; institute a hard cap on out-of-pocket drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries and patients dependent on insulin; and limit annual price increases to stop price gouging by drug corporations.
The full report can be found here. Patients who take Eliquis and Xarelto are available to speak with press upon request.