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Drug Prices in 2019 Are Surging, with Hikes at 5 Times Inflation

By Steve Smith

Price hikes on prescription drugs are surging in 2019, despite vows from lawmakers and the Trump administration to rein in pharmaceutical costs. 4 of 5 Americans believe the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable.

So far in 2019, more than 3,400 drugs have boosted their prices, a 17% increase compared with the roughly 2,900 drug price increases at the same time in 2018, according to a new analysis by Rx Savings Solutions, a consultant to health plans and employers.

The average price hike for those 3,400 drugs stands at 10.5%, or about 5 times the rate of inflation, the study found. About 41 drugs have boosted their prices by more than 100%, including one version of the antidepressant fluoxetine -- also known as Prozac -- whose cost has surged 879%, Rx Savings Solutions said. 

The price increases come at a time when lawmakers and consumers are increasingly concerned about the escalating cost of medications, which are far outpacing wage growth and the cost of living. Four of 5 Americans believe the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable, according to a studyearlier this year from the Kaiser Family Foundation. About one-third of patients say they're skipping prescription medicine because of the cost, the survey found.

An “inelastic market”

Drug prices are rising because of a combination of pressure from shareholders to deliver higher profits and what Michael Rea, founder and CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, calls an "inelastic market."

"It's a good that people need, in many cases in order to stay alive," he says. "You have a lot of flexibility to drive prices higher and higher.

Aimee Picchi, CBS News

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