High Drug Prices Remain a Conundrum, Analysts Say


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The problem of high prescription drug costs has no easy solution, analysts said Tuesday at an event here sponsored by Johns Hopkins University.

“It’s a major problem … and there’s no light at end of tunnel,” said Joshua Sharfstein, MD, associate dean for practice and training at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

Overall drug costs are growing 10%-12% a year, “far quicker than wages or medical cost growth,” he added. “And it inhibits our ability to address public health problems. When we have a challenge like hepatitis C, when people can’t get treatment because of the [high cost], we’re all at risk.”

Although many ideas for solving the problem are being discussed, none are moving forward, Sharfstein said. He noted that things could get worse if, for example, Congress were to pass something like the House Republicans’ American Health Care Act, which would have resulted in the loss of health insurance for an estimated 24 million people.

“If you take 24 million people off of insurance, that generates pressure to get as much out of every insured person for pharmaceuticals as possible,” meaning that drug prices could rise even higher, he said. “It’s entirely possible you’d see that shift continue, and it could really worsen all the different challenges we have.”

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