Skyrocketing Drug Prices Leave Sick US Patients Without Medicine

Tuesday, June 16, 2015
By Paul Martin

Astronomical prices on precision medications are leaving treatment out of reach for much of the US population. It is often said that treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses is a pathway to poverty, but it isn’t only the patients who are paying big pharma.

Prescription drug spending last year broke records, pulling in $374 billion for pharmaceutical companies, up 13% from the year prior. It was the largest boost seen in the last decade, and the skyrocketing profits are due largely to medications that have just been put into use in the past two years.

As USA Today points out, new cancer drugs are regularly priced at over $100,000 a year — double the country’s average household income. A new cholesterol drug set to be approved this summer is expected to cost $10,000 a year.

Even when these costs are covered by private insurance, patients often have to pay a 20% co-pay to obtain them. When drugs are provided through government programs, the cost is underwritten by taxpayers.

One of the most shocking price tags is on a drug called Harvoni, used to treat hepatitis C, which affects millions of Americans. It was approved by the FDA in October 2014 and can cure someone in as little as 8 weeks.

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