How Do Prescription Drug Prices Rise So High?

How does a drug go from $15 to $1,440 a dose?

That’s how much the price jumped in February for a synthetic hormone, 17P, used to prevent premature births, Arthur Allen writes in Slate. The drug was already on the market in 1962 when the FDA began requiring rigorous tests as part of the drug-approval process, so 17P had never been officially proved safe and effective (it and a number of other drugs were simply “grand fathered” in). The agency has finally started to catch up, in some cases telling manufacturers to stop selling a medication, in others inviting them to perform needed tests. The problem: After tests come price hikes.

Content continues below ad

Inexpensive 17P is now exorbitant Makena. After an outcry, its maker lowered the price of a dose to $690, the Los Angeles Times reports, but a full course of treatment still runs nearly $14,000. (A drug for gout has made a leap, too, from about ten cents per old pill to $5 per pill for newly tested Colcrys.) Perhaps the tests for 17P were extraordinarily demanding? No, George Washington University obstetrics professor John Larsen, MD, told the Times. A healthy profit is fine, he said. “But there’s no reason for it to be that high. The ingredients are cheap, and they didn’t have to do any scientific research.”

Plus:
41 Secrets Your Doctor Would Never Share
11 Secrets of Great Doctors