The Hill

Express Scripts Report: American Prescription Drug Users Paying Over $100,000 For Meds

Prescription pills sprawled over money
A new report is showing that triple the amount of patients are paying more money for prescription drugs. Chris Potter, CC BY 2.0

According to an Express Scripts report issued Wednesday, new hepatitis and made-to-order drugs have driven the cost of prescription drugs up in America. More than half a million people are paying medication costs in excess of $50,000. What's more, a fraction of the number of people paying that amount, around 139,000, are paying at least $100,000.

This is triple the number of Americans who were paying that much in 2013, at 47,000 people. Many of these patients oftentimes receiving specialty treatments receive their medications through multiple prescribers — 58 percent of which were Baby Boomers, aged 51 to 70, in the report. Seventy-seven percent of them were being treated for new hepatitis C prescription drugs that were introduced at a high price in the last two years.

It isn’t just the hepatitis medication that has gone up, however. Others have risen as well. The report showed that those in the high-cost category taking anti-depressants were more than twice the national average. This is likely in addition to the other medications that are being taken. Some of the patients, for example, had cancer, and drugs in that case can run exorbitantly high. Additionally, a new melanoma drug from Bristol-Myers Squibb, called Yervoy, can help keep patients with terminal melanoma alive for a year or longer, but it costs over $120,000 per year. That being said, the patients remain ill.

The hepatitis C drugs include Gilead Sciences’ Sovaldi, which can cure the virus. Gilead Sciences charges $84,000 for the drug over the course of a three-month regimen, which the drugmakers argue is cheaper than going through a lifetime of treatment for liver disease. 

Thankfully, for the patients who have to get the medication, the report found that insurance companies covered more than 98 percent of the cost for the prescription medication that totaled more than $100,000. Across the board, patients paid less money on average in 2014 than they had in 2013, according to the report. One wonders whether that is really the end of the conversation. As the market value for these drugs continues to rise, and the amount of people paying over $100,000 continues to go up in laughable numbers, won’t insurance costs rise with them?

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