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Cost of Multiple Sclerosis Rx Soaring, Even for Older Meds

No meds available for MS for less than $50,000 a year in U.S., researchers say

MONDAY, April 27, 2015 (HealthDay News) — The cost of multiple sclerosis (MS) medications in the United States is rising five to seven times faster than the normal rate of drug inflation, according to a study published online April 24 in Neurology.

“The issue of astronomical drug costs, especially for newer drugs or rare conditions, is more and more common,” study author Daniel Hartung, Pharm.D., M.P.H., an associate professor at the Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy in Portland, said in a university news release. Currently, there are no MS drugs in the United States with a list price below $50,000 a year, which is two to three times higher than in Australia, Canada, or the United Kingdom, the researchers added.

First-generation MS drugs became available in the 1990s at prices ranging from $8,000 to $10,000 a year. But the prices of those drugs did not go down or stay steady after newer drugs became available, which is what typically occurs. Instead, the costs of those older drugs soared. For example, one that originally cost $8,700 a year now costs $62,400 a year, the researchers said.

The cause of the massive price increases for the older drugs is unexplained and “alarming,” the authors added. “The simplest explanation is that pharmaceutical companies raise prices of new and old MS disease-modifying therapies in the United States to increase profits, and our health care system puts no limits on these increases,” the study authors write.

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