Drug price hikes tend to happen at the start of every year, and 2020 is no exception, according to GoodRx.
The website — which gathers prescription drug prices from pharmacies nationwide — tracks these annual drug price hikes.
The GoodRx research team tracked 2020 drug price increases for more than 3,500 brand-name and generic drugs throughout January and found that 639 drugs had increased in price by an average of 6% during that time.
- 619 brand-name drugs, which increased in price by an average of 5.2%
- 20 generic drugs, which increased in price by an average of 29.4%
That number of brand-name drugs with prices increases is larger than it was in the past two years: GoodRx found that 486 branded drugs increased in price by an average of 5.2% in January 2019, and 580 branded drugs increased by an average of 8% in January 2018.
The analysis shows that the biggest branded-drug price hike of 2020 so far is 14.9% for Marplan, which is used to treat depression.
Price hikes on 26 common drugs
So far this year, GoodRx says, the biggest increases on the most commonly prescribed medications include:
- Xifaxan: 7.9%
- Diazepam (generic Valium): 7.8%
- Creon: 7.4%
- Enbrel: 7.4%
- Humira: 7.4%
- Cosentyx: 7%
- Entresto: 7%
- Eliquis: 6%
- Jardiance: 6%
- Qvar: 6%
- Spiriva: 6%
- Tecfidera: 6%
- Tradjenta: 6%
- Gilenya: 5.5%
- Travatan Z: 5.5%
- Myrbetriq: 5.4%
- Armour Thyroid: 5%
- Bystolic: 5%
- Chantix: 5%
- Lo Loestrin FE: 5%
- Ozempic: 5%
- Premarin: 5%
- Trintellix: 5%
- Victoza: 5%
- Viibryd: 5%
- Vyvanse: 5%
GoodRx tracks list prices, which are the prices that manufacturers set for their drugs.
This is worth noting because list prices generally differ from the prices that consumers end up paying for their prescriptions — although list prices still serve as a barometer of sorts.
As GoodRx explains:
“Few patients actually pay this price because they are typically shielded by their health insurance. But the list price is still a good proxy for the price of a drug. In essence, rising list prices lead to rising out-of-pocket costs for patients.”
Why are prescription drug prices rising?
The reasons behind drug price increases vary depending on the type of drug, according to a study published in “Health Affairs” in 2019.
The research was based on an examination of the prices of drugs (including those taken by mouth and those injected) each year from 2008 through 2016.
Price increases for generic and specialty drugs are driven primarily by new product entry — meaning the price hikes can be attributed primarily to new drugs coming on the market — the study found.
However, price increases for brand-name drugs are driven primarily by inflation of the prices of existing drugs.
Lead study author Inmaculada Hernandez, an assistant professor of pharmacy at the University of Pittsburgh, told National Public Radio:
“The main takeaway of our study should be that increases in prices of brand-name drugs were largely driven by year-over-year price increases of drugs that were already in the market.”
Causes aside, rising drug prices are “salt in the wound” of Congress’ failure to grapple successfully with drug price legislation in 2019 and are fodder for making the case for action this year, Axios news service writes.
How to save on prescriptions
Fast-growing prices make it all the more important to shop smart when you fill prescriptions.
Here are a few cost-saving tips:
- Use a cheaper pharmacy: Different pharmacies often charge different prices for the same medication. For example, Money Talks News recently reported that out-of-pocket prescription drug costs tend to be substantially lower at the pharmacies inside Kroger and Walmart stores than those of CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens. Don’t overlook warehouse chains like Costco or Sam’s Club, either — you generally don’t need to be a member to use their pharmacies.
- Go online: Price comparison sites are a great tool — “5 Websites to Check Before Buying Prescription Drugs” explains how and where to look.
- Find a better Medicare deal for drugs: If you have Medicare as your health insurance, check whether switching plans can save you money, whether you’re on a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Part D drug plan. “How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Medicare Drug Costs” tells how to shop around and how to find free Medicare help through a State Health Insurance Program (SHIP). Be sure to consult a SHIP expert before switching, because changing Medicare plans can be risky, as we have reported.
Have you been hit with prescription price hikes? Tell us about it in a comment below or on Money Talks News’ Facebook page.