To what extent have manufacturer discounts offset increases in list prices of branded pharmaceutical products in the US?

The price of branded prescription drugs went up by 60% between 2007 and 2018 in the United States, after accounting for rebates and discounts, according to a new study in JAMA.

Drugmakers often argue that the uproar over drug prices is overblown, saying it focuses too much on list prices instead of the discounted prices insurance plans end up paying. But this study shows that those prices, too, are rising. While most research on prescription drug costs have centered around list prices, this new retrospective study brings manufacturer discounts into the discussion.

Researchers complied pricing data (2007-2018 from the investment firm SSR Health) on 602 branded drugs that came to market in the U.S. before January 2007. List prices increased by 159% and net prices increased by 60% during the study period. List prices more than doubled in some key categories, with prices for agents to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) rising 439% (net 175%), lipid-lowering agents climbing 278% (net 95%), and insulins rising 262% (net 51%).

Despite any offsets discounts and rebates may provide in the U.S., net prices increased three times faster than inflation. 

Chart via @Axios. 

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