Drugmakers Ring in New Year by Hiking Up Drug Prices


By Camaron Stevenson

January 3, 2020

Your prescriptions just got more expensive in Arizona. This is why.

Some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies are raising list prices on more than 200 drugs sold in the U.S. this year, according to healthcare research firm 3 Axis Advisors.

The announcement comes on the crest of a drug price hike wave, and the Trump administration’s proposal to allow less expensive medicines to be imported from Canada. Since last January, nearly 4,000 different medications have spiked in price.

Notable increases announced include:

  • Myeloma drug Revlimid: 6%
  • Multiple sclerosis treatment Tecfidera: 6%
  • Blood thinner Eliquis: 6%
  • Breast cancer treatment Ibrance: 5%
  • Arthritis medication Xeljanz: 5%
  • HIV treatments Biktarvy and Truvada: less than 5%
  • Cancer immunotherapies Opdivo and Yervoy: 1.5%

3 Axis Advisor co-founder Eric Pachman told Reuters that roughly half of the increases will be in the 4% to 6% range overall, and almost all will see less than a 10% rise. However, he also mentioned that more increases will be announced this week, which may affect those ranges.

According to David Bailie, a longtime sports medicine expert and Orthopedic surgeon in Scottsdale, these increases could lead to a rise in another problem: Arizonans leaving behind their prescriptions altogether. 

“Instead of taking their medication as prescribed, many Arizonans are rationing doses or not filling their prescriptions because the cost is too high,” Bailie wrote in an op-ed last month. Nationally, the Center for Disease Control found that more than one-third of uninsured patients opted not to take their medicine as prescribed.

Bailie said he believes legislative intervention is needed to make drugs affordable. However, the price hike is at odds with a bill recently passed by the House of Representatives. The H.R.3 Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019—designed to curb the cost of prescription drugs—is expected to save patients more than $450 billion over the next decade if it’s passed.

Despite the White House’s vow to reduce out-of-pocket medical costs by 2020, the House voted along partisan lines, with no dissent among Democrats and just two Republicans coming out in support of the measure. The bill now faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told the Washington Post the measure was “dead on arrival.” Should it pass in the Senate, President Donald Trump has hinted that he will veto the bill.

In a statement emphasizing the need for drug pricing legislation, Rep. Tom O’Halleran, (D-Ariz.), said, “In this time of hyper-partisanship, the only way we can fully address real issues impacting the American people is to identify commonsense, bipartisan solutions that can be implemented into law.”

A similar bill in the Senate, the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (PDPRA) of 2019, is experiencing similar trouble in obtaining bipartisan support. Though it was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), Republican Senators, including Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) are hesitant to show their support. When asked about the legislation last August during a tour of a Safeway pharmacy in Phoenix, McSally said her team is “studying the bill” and “trying to provide some constructive feedback.”

On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) also hasn’t indicated whether she will support H.R. 3 or the PDPRA.

While lawmakers continue to study the bill, drug reform advocates like Bailie are hopeful McSally and others will get behind legislation like PDPRA that rely on regulation of prices rather than a competitive healthcare market to cut down the cost of drugs.

“Martha McSally understands how rising prescription drug costs have harmed our state,” he said. “She has spoken with constituents on how the issue has affected them and has met with pharmacies to investigate the cause and impact of price hikes.”


  • Camaron Stevenson

    Camaron is the Founding Editor and Chief Political Correspondent for The Copper Courier, and has worked as a journalist in Phoenix for over a decade. He also teaches multimedia journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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