Prescription drug price hikes are slowing, but many patients say costs are still crippling

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An Oregon law passed in 2018 requires drug companies and health insurers to file data with the state on prescription drug prices. Each year in December, this information is compiled into a report and released to lawmakers and the public.

In a virtual hearing on Wednesday, state officials gave an overview of some highlights of the 2021 report.

Numi Lee Griffith is Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of Consumer and Business Services. She said the data shows a sharp reduction in price increases reported in recent years.

“What we have seen is that there has been a decrease in the number of price increases,” she said, “as well as a decrease in the magnitude of the price increases”.

Griffith suggested that this is at least in part because drugmakers launched newer drugs at a higher price to begin with, so they have to report fewer increases to state officials later.

But according to testimony at the hearing, even with the easing of average price increases, people facing serious illnesses in the state are still struggling to afford their treatment.

Joan Morgan is part of the Oregon Coalition for Affordable Prescriptions. She said her father’s cancer drug had gone from an already unaffordable $ 4,000 to $ 10,000 a month. The only saving grace, she said, was a brother who brought the same medicine from Europe, where it cost $ 243.

“Think about it just for a second,” Morgan told the hearing panel lawmakers. “Do the math. Because it blows my mind even after we’ve been doing this for years.”

Other data highlights from the 2021 annual report include:

  • There were 193 new “expensive” drugs reported. These are drugs that are priced at wholesalers $ 670 or more for a 30 day supply.
  • The most expensive drugs in this group were the cancer chemotherapy drugs Abecma and Breyanzi, produced by Bristol-Meyers Squibb. They cost $ 419,500 and $ 410,300 respectively.
  • State data shows that, by far, cancer treatments make up most of the new high-cost drugs introduced.
  • 71 drugs reported annual price increases, the largest of which was a 778% increase for a generic drug from Nostrum Labs.
  • The average price increase for generic drugs was 27%, 13% for brand name drugs

The 2021 Prescription Drug Price Transparency Report is expected to be released on December 15.


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