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Why Prescription Drug Prices Keep Rising – and 3 Ways to Get Them Under Control | The Fiscal Times

Prescription drug prices have been rising at a blistering rate over the last few decades. Between 1980 and 2016, overall spending on prescription drugs rose from about $12 billion to roughly $330 billion, while its share of total health care spending doubled, from 5% to 10%.

Although lawmakers have shown renewed interest in addressing the problem, with pharmaceutical CEOs testifying before the Senate Finance Committee in February and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMS) scheduled to do so this week, no comprehensive plan to halt the relentless increase in prices has been proposed, let alone agreed upon.

Robin Feldman, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law, takes a look at the drug pricing system in a new book, “Drugs, Money and Secret Handshakes: The Unstoppable Growth of Prescription Drug Prices.” In a recent conversation with Bloomberg’s Joe Nocera, Feldman said that one of the key drivers of rising prices is the ongoing effort of pharmaceutical companies to maintain control of the market.

Fearing competition from lower-cost generics, drugmakers began over the last 10 or 15 years to focus on innovations “outside of the lab,” Feldman said. These innovations include paying PBMs to reduce competition from generics; creating complex systems of rebates to PBMs, hospitals and doctors to maintain high prices; and gaming the patent system to extend monopoly pricing power.

Feldman’s research on the dynamics of the drug market led her to formulate three general solutions for the problem of ever-rising prices:

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Why Prescription Drug Prices Keep Rising – and 3 Ways to Get Them Under Control | The Fiscal Times.