Earlier this month, Oregon’s Prescription Drug Price Transparency Program held its third annual hearing virtually, discussing a new state report that revealed the shocking price tags on the state’s most costly medications, according to The Corvallis Advocate, an independent daily newspaper serving Corvallis, Oregon.
The report found that generic drugs developed by Bristol Meyers Squibb, a New York-based multinational pharmaceutical company, have been the most staggering in cost.
For instance, Abecma (idecabtagene vicleucel), a CAR T cell therapy for multiple myeloma, costs $419,500 per infusion. Breyanzi, which is used for the treatment of large B-cell lymphoma, costs $410,300 per dose. Bristol Meyers Squibb develops both of these medications.
In 2020, Tecartus (brexucabtagene autoleucel), another blood cancer drug, was priced at $373,000. California-based pharma company Kite Pharma develops Tecartus.
Humira (adalimumab), developed by Illinois-based biopharmaceutical company AbbVie, was also on the list of costly medicines. The drug is used for the treatment of autoimmune conditions such as ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Humira’s increase in cost had the U.S. healthcare system spending more than $1.5 billion.
The report revealed 193 high-cost medications in 2021, with more than 60% of those being generic drugs.
Numi Lee Griffith, Senior Policy Advisor, Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, said, “This is continuing the trend that most of the highest cost drugs that we see tend to be for cancer, or for other sorts of difficult to treat disease states that don’t have a lot of treatments out there for them already. And they tend to be biologics.”
Explaining why biologics cost so much, Griffith said biologics vary from other drugs, as they are large, instead of small molecule drugs, plus they are created inside the patient’s cells rather than in a laboratory setting.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claimed that Abecma is one of the first approved biosimilars designed to fight multiple myeloma – a cancer that forms in a type of white blood cell called a plasma cell.
The FDA said in a statement, “Each dose of Abecma is a customized treatment created by using a patient’s own T-cells, which are a type of white blood cell, to help fight the myeloma. The patient’s T-cells are collected and genetically modified to include a new gene that facilitates targeting and killing myeloma cells. Once the cells are modified, they are infused back into the patient.”
According to the new report, the average drug price for generic drugs increased to 27%, while for brand-name drugs, it increased to 13%.
Griffith explained, “What this really suggests is a change in behavior from manufacturers, that rather than increasing prices throughout [the] lifespan of a drug. They’re building all their profit pulls into the beginning of the life cycle. This way they have fewer and smaller price increases later on, which allows them to not send reports to programs like ours.”