Real People. Unconscionable Numbers.

May 5, 2016

Troubling numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week show nearly 3.5 million Americans are currently living with hepatitis C – many of which are unaware of their infection. Luckily, this chronic illness is treatable, but at a staggering cost. 

Rewind to 2014 when Sovaldi was introduced to the market. This “breakthrough treatment” gave hepatitis C patients and families hope that one day they would be cured of this devastating disease. However, many came eye to eye with an unexpected side effect – sticker shock. Coming in at an astounding $84,500 for treatment, Sovaldi sparked a national debate about the pharmaceutical industry and its unjustifiable pricing strategies.

Unfortunately, Americans do not know how much it costs to create a drug or how drug companies arrive at a price, because there is no public information available to them. It’s mind boggling. Spending on specialty medicines (drugs that require special handling, administration, or monitoring) increased by $54 billion over the past five years, accounting for 73 percent of all medicine spending growth.

According to a recent AARP report, the annual retail cost of widely-used specialty prescription drug therapies in 2013 averaged $53,384 annually. This is more than the median US household income ($52,250) for the same time period, twice as much as the median income for Medicare beneficiaries ($23,500), and almost three and a half times higher than the average Social Security retirement benefit ($15,526).

It’s important to look at the bigger picture and focus on what really matters – the people behind the statistics who struggle each day to pay for the medications they need. That’s why CSRxP is calling for more transparency, competition, and value to bring these prices down.

Take Des Moines resident and cancer patient Janet Huston for example. “I do not believe that I should have to go bankrupt in order to pay for my medications,” she explains. Sadly, Janet is not alone. A recent Consumer Reports’ poll revealed that Americans simply cannot keep up with rising drug prices. In fact, the poll shows that 75 percent of those being hit by these sky-high costs are saying that they need to cut back on their spending, including on food, in order to pay for their medication.

Week after week, report after report, we find ourselves asking the same burning question: what good is a breakthrough treatment if it’s unaffordable?