U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders have asked 14 manufacturers of generic drugs why prices for some of their products have multiplied hundreds or thousands of times in the last few years:
- Albuterol Sulfate, used to treat asthma and other lung conditions, increased 4,014% for a bottle of 100 2 mg tablets.
- Doxycycline Hyclate, an antibiotic used to treat a variety of infections, increased 8,281% for a bottle of 500 100 mg tablets.
- Glycopyrrolate, used to prevent irregular heartbeats during surgery, increased 2,728% for a box of 10 0.2 mg/mL, 20 mL vials.
It’s a fair question, but it does not look like the line of inquiry is on the right track:
But there has been increasing concern that, in some cases, prices rise because of questionable business practices or market manipulation. In the last several years, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general have taken aim at a practice called “pay for delay,” in which brand manufacturers pay generic drug makers to hold off entering the market.
Whether that is actually a bad thing, I’ll leave for another day. (It may be an efficient way to resolve patent disputes.) It cannot be an explanation for that which is described here. “Pay for delay” happens before a drug’s patent expires. These price hikes happen long after the
generic market is established. If the manufacturers are engaged in dubious price manipulation in 2014, why weren’t they also doing it in 2012? A more likely explanation is that the FDA has driven competitors out of the market by over regulation of manufacturing facilities. I have previously identified this as the major factor in shortages of generic drugs for injection, and it would not surprise me to learn that the same development has emerged in manufacturing generic tablets.