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Exclusive: Makers took big price increases on widely used U.S. drugs

(Story refiled to change millions to billions in paragraph 4)

By Caroline Humer

Major drug companies took hefty price increases in the U.S., in some cases more than doubling listed charges, for widely used medications over the past five years, a Reuters analysis of proprietary data found.

Prices for four of the nation's top 10 drugs increased more than 100 percent since 2011, Reuters found. Six others went up more than 50 percent. Together, the price increases on drugs for arthritis, high cholesterol, asthma and other common problems added billions in costs for consumers, employers and government health programs.

Extraordinary price hikes by two small companies, Turing Pharmaceuticals and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (VRX.TO), drew new attention to drug costs. Turing expected to book $200 million by raising the price of Daraprim, an antiparasitic used for a rare infection, by 5,000 percent, according to company documents released by Congressional investigators.

Routine price increases by bigger players may draw less attention, but they add up. Sales for the top 10 drugs went up 44 percent to $54 billion in 2014, from 2011, even though prescriptions for the medications dropped 22 percent, according to IMS Health data.

At the top of the list was AbbVie Inc (ABBV.N), which raised the price of arthritis drug Humira more than 126 percent, Reuters found. Next were Amgen Inc (AMGN.O) and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA), which raised prices for arthritis treatment Enbrel and multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone by 118 percent.

The increases help explain federal data showing overall spending on drugs rose faster than doctor visits and hospitalization over the past five years.

Reuters based its analysis on the top 10 drugs, according to 2014 sales...


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