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Specialty drug prices soaring past six figures per year

HOUSTON (KPRC) – We all know that prescription drug prices are soaring higher and higher, but there is one category of prescription drugs where the costs are climbing so high that many patients may simply be priced out, unable to afford the very drug they so desperately need.

They are called specialty drugs, and AARP has just completed a study of 97 different specialty drugs and their prices.

What types of ailments are specialty drugs used to treat?

Specialty drugs are used to treat complex, chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis C and cancer.

What does the AARP price watch report reveal?

It found that the average annual cost for just one specialty medication used on a chronic basis is $78,781. There are specialty drugs that cost far more and those that cost less, but that was the average.

“What we found is that, on average, one specialty drug costs roughly $80,000 per year, which greatly exceeds what a lot of people make. The U.S. median income is about $60,000 a year. So it’s roughly $20,000 more than the average household brings in, in terms of income,” said Leigh Purvis, AARP Director of health services research.

What can we do to fight the high cost of these drugs?

If you are currently taking one of these specialty drugs and can no longer afford the price, talk with your doctor.  Ask the doctor if there are any other drugs on the market that will do the same job at a lower price.
You can also check the official website for your particular drug to see if the drug manufacturer offers any kind of financial assistance for those struggling to pay for their medicine.

“A lot of the manufacturers that have these high-priced specialty drugs also have patient assistance programs, and if you can qualify, you can get these products for a much lower cost or even for free,” Purvis said.

Finally, AARP says there are some states where lawmakers are looking at importing drugs from other countries into the United States at far lower prices. Contact your local lawmakers and push them to look at the possibility of importing prescription drugs from countries where they negotiate with big pharma and hence pay far lower prices for the very same drugs we buy for more here in the United States.

Below, we have the AARP list of some of the highest-priced specialty drugs.

We also have provided two links where you can find out more about the high cost of specialty drugs and how to fight back against these high prices. 

Here are the top 10 most expensive specialty drugs used to treat complex, chronic conditions:

  • Gattex: $436,000 -- used to treat individuals with short bowel syndrome

  • Revlimid -- 10 milligrams: $247,000 -- a cancer drug used to treat people with multiple myeloma

  • Tyvaso: $197,000 -- used to treat pulmonary hypertension-high blood pressure in the lungs making it difficult to breathe

  • Serostim: $170,000 -- is an injectable human growth hormone, used to treat growth failure in children and adults

  • Prolastin-C: $157,000 -- used to treat emphysema

  • Neulasta: $136,000 -- used to boost white blood cell count and reduce the risk of infection for people who are going through chemotherapy

  • Tracleer: $131,000 -- used to treat pulmonary hypertension

  • Stelara: $118,000 -- used to treat Crohn’s disease and plaque psoriasis

  • Letairis -- 10 mg: $112,000 -- used to treat pulmonary hypertension

  • Opsumit -- 10 mg: $111,000 -- used to treat pulmonary hypertension