- A new study in Neurology flagged by the WSJ's Ed Silverman shows that drug prices for older multiple sclerosis (MS) drug continued to increase even when new drugs were introduced.
- This is counterintuitive, because generally drugs drop in price in a specific category when new drugs are introduced.
- In addition, a comparison looking at prices paid my Medicaid, Veterans Affairs and the Canadian, Australian and U.K. governments found that the cost for MS treatments was often more than 70% lower in Canada, the UK and Australia than the cost paid by Medicaid in the US.
These findings are all part of a larger debate around the cost of drugs, which have been increasing aggressively in several categories, including hepatitis C and cancer. This study looked at the cost of MS drugs, including older injectables and newer oral drugs, between 1993 and 2013.
According to the study, the first-generation injectables, which cost between $8,000 and $11,000 originally, now cost $60,000. So although Rebif came along in 2002, prices continued to increase. And then when Gilenya from Novartis and Aubagio from Sanofi, as well as Biogen's Tecfidera—all marked improvements over older drugs—prices of injectables still continued to increase.
At the same time, the prices of the new drugs are increasing. While the pharma companies are not commenting, the takeaway from two editorialists in Neurolgy was: "The disturbing escalation of prices in the U. S. is clearly related to the political prohibition of Medicare to negotiate prices with the pharmaceutical industry. What has happened defies common sense, logic, and the expected rules of the marketplace."