KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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High Drug Costs Lead To Tough Decisions For Patients

Many of the most widely used generic drugs actually were cheaper at the end of 2015 than when the year began, but Americans, even relatively affluent ones, still are facing astronomical prices.

The Wall Street Journal: Patients Struggle With High Drug Prices
The pharmaceutical industry, after a long drought, has begun to produce more innovative treatments for serious diseases that can extend life and often have fewer side effects than older treatments. Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved 41 new drugs, the most in nearly two decades. The catch is their cost. Recent treatments for hepatitis C, cancer and multiple sclerosis that cost from $50,000 annually to well over $100,000 helped drive up total U.S. prescription-drug spending 12.2% in 2014, five times the prior year’s growth rate, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. ... For many of the poorest Americans, medicines are covered by government programs or financial-assistance funds paid for by drug companies. For those in the middle class, it is a different story. (Walker, 12/31)

The Washington Post: Many Medications Actually Became Cheaper This Year — But That Doesn’t Mean Americans Are Paying Less Overall
The federal government announced this month that prescription drug spending hit $297.7 billion last year -- up more than 12 percent, the largest annual increase in more than a decade. A new generation of specialized drugs and price hikes on existing medications helped to drive that spike, and officials have predicted that annual spending on medications will grow 6.3 percent on average through 2024. If there's a bright spot amid the troubling rise in the cost of prescription drugs, perhaps it is this: Many of the most widely used generic drugs actually were cheaper at the end of 2015 than when the year began, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the prescription drug price comparison site GoodRx. (Dennis, 12/29)

In other pharmaceutical news —

The Wall Street Journal: Big Pharma: Dealing With Fewer Biotech Targets
The torrid pace of consolidation among drug makers is bound to slow at some point. But that doesn’t mean deal bankers and lawyers will be idle in 2016. There have been more than 2,000 announced deals over the past two years within the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sectors world-wide, according to Dealogic, for a total consideration north of $750 billion. The pace isn’t likely sustainable. (Grant, 12/31)

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