Brand-Name Prescription Drug Pricing: Lack of Therapeutically Equivalent Drugs and Limited Competition May Contribute to Extraordinary Price Increases

GAO-10-201 Published: Dec 22, 2009. Publicly Released: Jan 11, 2010.
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The growing cost of brand-name prescription drugs--FDA-approved drug products that typically have patent protection--is a concern for patients, payers, and providers of health care--particularly when price increases are large and occur suddenly. A 2008 congressional hearing by the Joint Economic Committee drew attention to some small market prescription drugs that had an extraordinary price increase--a price increase of 100 percent or more at a single point in time. GAO was asked to examine extraordinary price increases for brand-name prescription drugs. Specifically, GAO examined the: (1) frequency of extraordinary price increases for brand-name prescription drugs from 2000 to 2008, (2) characteristics of the brand-name prescription drugs that had extraordinary price increases, and (3) factors that contributed to the extraordinary price increases experienced by these brand-name prescription drugs. To determine the frequency and characteristics of the brand-name prescription drugs that experienced an extraordinary price increase, GAO reviewed drug pricing and other data from a pharmaceutical industry compendium. To illustrate the factors that may contribute to extraordinary price increases, GAO developed case studies of six brand-name prescription drugs identified from the analysis of drug pricing data. These brand-name prescription drugs were selected based on factors including price, and the percentage and number of price increases.

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