Many Prescription Drugs Are Costlier Than Ever

By Sherry Baker and Temma Ehrenfeld @SherryNewsViews
April 13, 2023
Many Prescription Drugs Are Costlier Than Ever

Prices on hundreds of drugs rose at the beginning of 2023, on average by more than 6 percent for brand names. Here’s what you should know.

A federal law aimed at reducing prescription medicine costs may have restrained increases at the start of the year, when manufacturers historically increase list prices for brand-name medicines. Still, on average, the price increase approached 7 percent.

Paying for prescriptions is hard for many Americans. About 3 in 10 adults don’t take a drug as prescribed, leaving a prescription unfilled, skipping doses, or looking for alternatives, according to a major poll.


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One study concluded that average launch prices for new drugs, the most expensive, increased 20 percent each year since 2008. In recent years, nearly half of them cost $150,000 a year. Relatively few high-cost medicines, many of them fairly new, drive drug prices.

List prices don’t tell you what you’ll pay. The real prices emerge through a complex process, as manufacturers negotiate rebates with pharmacy benefit managers acting on behalf of insurers. The middlemen take their cut, adding substantially, perhaps as much as half, to the overall cost of drugs.

Meanwhile, “health plans are increasingly using deductibles and coinsurance to shift more of the cost of care to chronically ill patients taking brand medicines,” notes Pricilla VanderVeer, representing the industry. To make things worse, it may be difficult or impossible to know your costs in advance.  

Overall, in the 12 months through November 2022, prescription drug inflation in the consumer price index was 1.9 percent. But it’s not clear how that number reflects the experience of consumers.

The bottom line is that about 70 percent of Americans say they don’t have trouble paying their drug costs. Among those who do, about two-thirds have a serious health condition in their household. That leaves a surprising number of people who struggle with drug costs.


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Some already costly drugs have higher prices than ever

The blockbuster anti-inflammatory drug Humira, which treats severe cases of the autoimmune conditions Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis, rose in price as the first cheaper alternative, Amjevita, came on the market. Other drugs with soaring prices are Eliquis (a blood thinner), Imbruvica (a cancer drug), and Stelara, which treats psoriasis and Crohn’s.

How to lower your prescription medicine cost

Find a lower price. Sign up for a mail order program that may be less expensive than filling your prescription at a neighborhood pharmacy. Research discount options and coupons at GoodRXRefillWise, and SingleCare.

Get assistance. Check with the manufacturer of your medicine or your state for a pharmaceutical assistance program. You may qualify for help paying a particular prescription. Seniors may get extra Medicare coverage through a federal program called Extra Help.

Find advocates. These charitable programs can also help:


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April 13, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN