Federal lawmakers have been griping about drug pricing for years, led most recently by President Donald Trump, who famously declared even before he was elected that the industry is “getting away with murder.” A new study could very well fuel those complaints.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Harvard Medical School scoured the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s drug-shortage database and compared the results to pricing data. They determined that prices increased twice as fast as expected for drugs that were in short supply in 2016. Price increases that are imposed during shortages, coupled with higher costs associated with drugs that are prescribed as substitutes, cost the healthcare system $230 million each year, the researchers estimated. The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Drug shortages are a chronic problem in this country: There were 146 last year, 154 in 2016, and there have been 95 so far this year already, according to data collected by the University of Utah Drug Information Service. About 30% of the shortages this year have been caused by manufacturing problems, but for most, the actual reason for the supply shortfall is unknown.