Generics and biosimilars may no longer bring price relief

The expirations of patents on drugs and the introduction of generics is no longer a guarantee of significantly lower prices.

Many manufacturers have raised their prices so much on drugs that have inched toward their patent expiration that there is less incentive for generic or biosimilar manufacturers to offer a drastically reduced price, according to The Wall Street Journal. Moreover, biosimilar versions of sophisticated biotech drugs are also much more expensive to make.

"We're not expecting to see anything close to the price relief we saw with traditional medicines when the generics become available," Jim Carlson, vice president of clinical pharmacy services at Cambia Solution's OmedaRx, told The Journal.

Carlson was specifically referring to the anti-inflammatory drug Humira, which treats rheumatoid arthritis and goes off patent at the end of this year. Its list price has been increased eight times and 73 percent over the past three years, to an annual cost of $49,362 per patient, according to the newspaper.

The issue of climbing pharmaceutical prices has been brought to the forefront in recent years. Hospitals sometimes struggle with drugs being in short supply, although they often engage in wasteful drug usage practices themselves.

However, the practices of drug companies have also come under fire, including obtaining patents on old-line drugs, some from as far back as the 1950s, and greatly increasing their prices. In one instance, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to the 63-year-old drug Daraprim and raised the price by more than 50-fold, drawing intense criticism from many quarters. 

To learn more:
- read The Wall Street Journal article (subscription may be required)