These four prescriptions cost patients an extra $1,000 a day


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A new AARP study finds that four drugs that treat serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, each retail for more than $1,000 a day.

Drugs used in diseases such as cancer, hepatitis C, short bowel syndrome and myasthenia gravis top the list of expensive specialty prescriptions in the latest AARP Rx Price Monitoring Report.

Soliris has the honor of grabbing the lead, at $1,384 per day. Monoclonal antibody medication is used to treat many diseases, including the autoimmune disease myasthenia gravis, and is often given as an injection either weekly or biweekly.

Gattex — a drug used to treat short bowel syndrome — is the close runner-up, at $1,361 per day.

The top 10 specialty drugs on the AARP list – and their daily costs – are:

  • Soliris (myasthenia gravis and other conditions): $1,384
  • Gattex (Short Bowel Syndrome): $1,361
  • Harvoni (hepatitis C): $1,114
  • Iclusig (Cancer): $1090
  • Uptravi (pulmonary hypertension): $986
  • Cerdelga (Gaucher disease): $973
  • Epclusa (Hepatitis C): $900
  • Fusevi (hepatitis C): $876
  • Caledico (cystic fibrosis): $849
  • Symdeko (cystic fibrosis) $803

The AARP reports that in 2020, retail prices for 180 widely used specialty prescription drugs increased by an average of 4.8%, well above last year’s general US inflation rate of 1.3%.

Specialty drugs are used to treat persistent and complex conditions and are among the most expensive on the market. Overall, the average annual cost for a specialty drug used to treat a chronic condition was $84,442 in 2020.

For perspective, that amount is nearly three times the median income of $29,650 received by Medicare beneficiaries, those age 65 and older.

The report warns that the rising cost of specialty drugs has reached a tipping point:

If recent trends in specialty drug prices continue unabated, an increasing number of at-risk Americans will not be able to afford necessary specialty drugs. Such developments will lead to worse health outcomes and higher healthcare costs in the future.”

AARP says its findings will be released as the organization uses its Fair Rx Price Now campaign to persuade Congress to lower drug prices.

As part of the campaign, AARP wants Medicare to be given the right to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers. The American Retirees Association is also calling for a cap on out-of-pocket costs for Medicare Part D plans.

Finally, the association would like to impose penalties on manufacturers who raise drug prices by more than the rate of inflation. The organization notes that if retail prices do not exceed general inflation, the average annual cost of specialty drugs in the latest survey will fall by more than half, to just under $40,000 annually.

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