The Truth About Drug Pricing in America

August 30th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

It seems like any time the national conversation shifts to drug pricing in America, it focuses on one particular drug at a time — be it Martin Shkreli's Daraprim or the recent controversy over EpiPens. But as one Reddit user pointed out on Tuesday, prescription drugs prices are rising across the board.


"Remember it's not just EpiPens," the Reddit user wrote. "Latuda keeps me alive and it's $1,000 a month."

Latuda is a top-selling antipsychotic drug that's used to treat bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Because the drug's manufacturer, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, owns a patent on Latuda that doesn't expire until 2018, there are currently no generic versions available and so patients without insurance have to spend about $30 per pill to afford their medication.

And while Latuda's price hasn't increased to the same extent as drugs like Daraprim — which shot up 5,000 percent, from $13.50 to $750 per pill, last August — the drug has more than doubled in price since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 2010, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Managed Care.

This is part of a drug pricing trend. Prescription drugs are costlier in the U.S. than any other country.

There are a number of factors that contribute to high drug prices in America, but researchers recently released a study in the Journal of the America Medical Association that pinpointed what they consider the "main factor" behind the problem: Market exclusivity. Because drug manufacturers are temporarily awarded exclusive patents to the drugs they produce, Americans are stuck with high prices.

Patents allow drug companies to set their rate without fear of competition, and while "the availability of generic drugs after this exclusivity period is the main means of reducing prices in the United States... access to them may be delayed by numerous business and legal strategies."

That appears to be what's happened with Sunovion Pharmaceuticals' Latuda. ATTN: reached out to Sunovion for comment, but a representative was not immediately available.

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