Posted 14 November 2016
By Zachary Brennan
As the rising prices of pharmaceuticals continue to hurt Americans' pockets, the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are using transparency to highlight some of the steepest price spikes that are costing Medicare and Medicaid the most.
In order to provide a better sense of “the frequency and pervasiveness of these increases,” CMS’ acting administrator Andy Slavitt, chief data officer Niall Brennan and deputy chief of staff Tim Gronniger on Monday announced an update to an interactive tool tracking the price of drugs purchased for Medicare beneficiaries.
In addition, CMS released another dashboard with data on drugs purchased for Medicaid beneficiaries, which totaled $57 billion in spending in 2015. CMS also added some high-level information on rebates provided by drug manufacturers to offset some of the high drug costs in Medicare.
Despite congressional hearings earlier this year targeting and shaming drug companies for exorbitant price increases, Medicaid saw its spending rise by 300% or more for at least six different drugs.
One of those increases came from Valeant Pharmaceuticals, a company that had to defend itself before Congress in May because of its price increases. As the CMS data show, the price of Valeant’s Ativan (lorazepam) rose from an average cost per unit of less than $40 to more than $200 between 2014 and 2015.
CMS’ total spending for another Valeant drug, known as Glumetza (metformin HCl) rose by 829% between 2014 and 2015.
In addition, CMS continues to pay hefty sums for just a small handful of pharmaceuticals.
“The five Medicare Part D drugs with highest total drug spending each accounted for more than $2 billion in gross spending in Part D in 2015. The five drugs with the highest total Medicare Part B spending in 2015 are the same as 2014 and combined they totaled more than $7 billion in spending,” Slavitt, Brennan and Gronniger write.