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increase drug prices

Drug makers increased the average wholesale price of 26 brand-name drugs by 100% or more in a single cost adjustment last year, compared with comparable price increases for 15 drugs in 2004, according to University of Minnesota researchers, USA Today reports. In the first half of 2008, the average wholesale prices of 17 drugs have increased by at least 100%. According to USA Today, many of the prices that are “quietly” being raised are for older products used to treat rare but often serious conditions.

Alan Goldbloom, president of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in Minnesota, said, “This does drive up the price of health care,” adding, “Hospitals are either eating the cost or passing it along to insurers, so you and I are paying it in increased premiums.”

According to pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts, the average wholesale prices of 1,344 brand-name drugs increased by an average of 7.4% last year. Stephen Schondelmeyer, director the PRIME Institute at the University of Minnesota, said, “There is no simple explanation” for why certain drugs experienced the larger increase. “Some companies seem to figure no one is watching so they can get away with it,” Schondelmeyer said. “Drug companies say the price hikes cover the costs of keeping the drugs on the market,” USA Today reports.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) last week asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate cases of large price increases. Klobuchar earlier this year also asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate a company that had increased the average wholesale prices of four drugs by up to 3,436% in 2006 (Appleby, USA Today, 8/8).

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