This past year has been one filled with many new adventures and challenges for pharma.
The first big change that comes to mind for many of us is the approval of the first biosimilar in the U.S. In September, Novartis AG launched Zarxio, a biosimilar version of Amgen Inc.’s Neupogen—which boosts white blood cell production to prevent infections in certain cancer and other patients.
The year of 2015 was also inundated with single-use technologies—both new discoveries, as well as some discussions as to their disadvantages—and new technologies for various serialization efforts: such as advances in labeling.
3-D technology has also reared its head, with new advances, like the potential for patient-specific medical devices. There have also been a number of cannabis-derived products that have emerged as potential treatments, Kalytera Therapeutics’ cannabidiol (CBD)-like molecule being one of these.
Despite these leaps in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical advancements, there were also a number of instances where the pharma industry took steps backwards. The instance that may come immediately to mind is the scandals surrounding Martin Shkreli: both hiking the price of Daraprim by 5,000 percent and his arrest for securities fraud.
If you happened to miss this uproar, under Shkreli’s guidance, Turing acquired the rights to a treatment for a rare parasitic infection. After which time, the company raised the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill—resulting in an uproar from both lawmakers and the public about soaring drug prices.
With instances such as these, it may not be a surprise to hear that, in 2015, prescription drug prices were reported to have risen 10.43 percent, according to an analysis released Monday by healthcare data company Truveris.
But prescription drug prices were not the only drugs to experience an increase. In the same analysis, the cost of:
- Branded medicines jumped 14.77 percent
- Specialty drugs rose 9.21 percent
- Generic medicines increased 2.93 percent
“We’re in our third year of double-digit [increases],” said A.J. Loiacono, the Truveris’ Chief Innovation Officer, in The Washington Post. “Double-digit inflation is concerning. I don’t care if it’s for gas or food; it’s rare.”
Prices rose in nearly every therapeutic class of drugs, but some conditions saw bigger jumps than others.
“These new figures underscore growing concerns about the increasingly prohibitive costs of prescription medications—a matter that prompted extensive debate in 2015 among presidential candidates, congressional representatives, healthcare providers, and pharmaceutical executives,” said Loiacono. “Even as pressures mount, the trend of rising costs shows no signs of stopping, making it critical for consumers to take matters into their own hands to control their healthcare spending.”
An article titled, “Here are the 6 reasons why prescription drugs are so expensive,” in Business Insider, stated the following as the top reasons why prescription drugs have such a huge price tag:
- No price controls
- Lengthy patents
- Limited competition
- Small markets
- Development and production costs
- Fewer new generics
Hopefully, we can learn from the past and make a brighter future for the year of 2016 in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries.