Drug price hikes tend to happen at the start of every year, and 2021 is no exception, according to GoodRx.
The website — which gathers prescription drug prices from pharmacies nationwide — tracks these annual hikes.
The GoodRx research team has been tracking 2021 price increases for more than 4,500 brand-name and generic drugs through January and has found that 722 drugs have increased in price by an average of 4.5% so far this month.
As of Jan. 13, they include:
- 715 brand-name drugs, which increased in price by an average of 4.5%
- Seven generic drugs, which increased in price by an average of 2.7%
The January total to date of 722 drugs with higher prices already exceeds that of January 2020, when 639 drugs increased in price (by 6%, on average), and January 2019, when 486 drugs increased in price (by 5.2%, on average).
The analysis shows that the biggest drug price hike of 2021 so far is 14.58% for Venofer, an injected medication used to treat iron-deficiency anemia in people who have chronic kidney disease.
The biggest drug price hikes of 2021 — so far
GoodRx says the biggest price increases as of Jan. 13 are for the following 31 medications, all of which are brand names:
- Venofer: 14.58%
- Zontivity: 10%
- Cosmegen: 10%
- Desoxyn: 10%
- Neoprofen: 10%
- Tranxene: 10%
- Adzenys Xr-Odt: 10%
- Nocdurna: 9.99%
- Dyrenium: 9.91%
- Nilandron: 9.91%
- Panretin: 9.91%
- Frova: 9.9%
- Indocin: 9.9%
- Lidoderm: 9.9%
- Nucynta: 9.9%
- Nucynta Er: 9.9%
- Percocet: 9.9%
- Theo-24: 9.9%
- Xtampza Er: 9.9%
- Cambia: 9.9%
- Jatenzo: 9.9%
- Parnate: 9.89%
- Elcys: 9.8%
- Kapvay: 9.74%
- Viokace: 9.5%
- Ampyra: 9.5%
- Palforzia: 9.5%
- Northera: 9.5%
- Onfi: 9.5%
- Sabril: 9.5%
- Xenazine: 9.5%
For a complete list of the 700-plus prescription drugs that have seen price hikes so far this month, visit GoodRx’s blog.
If you wonder why you haven’t heard of most of the medications, GoodRx notes that drugs that increase in price generally are specialty drugs that are not commonly prescribed.
The website also note that it tracks list prices, which are the prices that manufacturers set for their drugs. 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 the impact of inflation on 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.”
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, so shop around. 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 You Should Check Before Buying Prescriptions” 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.
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