In 2018, OSPIRG helped pass a prescription drug price transparency program in order to better understand why prescriptions cost so much and to protect consumers from unexpected price increases. Now in its second year, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services released the results from 2020 reporting. Here are some key takeaways:
Drugs continue to be too expensive, especially branded ones.
The most expensive branded drug was Yervoy, a cancer medication. Per prescription, it cost over $43,000. Many of these drugs are for fatal or chronic diseases like cancer or MS, including Ocrevus at almost $40,000. Other drugs, like Soliris for blood disease or Trikafta for cystic fibrosis, are still over $20,000 per prescription.
The majority of prescription drugs reporting a price increase have net profits of 37%, with some as high as 80%.
When the law implementing this program was passed, one of the arguments against it from pharmaceutical companies was that it would hurt the manufacturing industry and stifle competition. Clearly, these fears have not come to fruition given these high profits.
Data from the program is still difficult to sort through, requiring follow-ups with the companies and screening for trade secrets.
DCBS has to ask follow-up questions to companies that don’t give complete information or aren’t clear in their reporting submissions. In some cases, the follow-up takes months to ensure the reports are accurate and complete, and impose some limitations on the current data. DCBS is hopeful that continued outreach and education to manufacturers will result in more comprehensive data next year.
The #1 reported marketing strategy targeting health care professionals is a sales pitch.
These pitches are lobby meetings that happen behind closed doors with little to no regulation or disclosure requirements - so naturally, it’s the main way to sell these products.
Transparency works but is not enough.
We have to address the costs of prescription drugs. OSPIRG is supporting the introduction of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board this legislative session. The Board would have the power to review drugs that pose the greatest affordability challenges to consumers and set an upper payment limit for them. In this way, we can actually lower costs for consumers and ensure they can afford the health care they need.
DCBS’s full report can be read here. DCBS has made the materials from their presentation available and will post the recording of the hearing here.