drug costs

If you've ever had a little one at home with a fever, you might have noticed two options for Tylenol at the store.

There's one for infants and one for children. They contain the same amount of medicine — 160 milligrams of acetaminophen per 5 milliliters of liquid — but the infant version costs three times more.

What gives? It turns out, there's a backstory.

The federal Food and Drug Administration has approved a gene therapy for a rare childhood disorder that is now the most expensive drug on the market. It costs $2.125 million per patient.

But for those patients lucky enough to get it, it appears it can save their lives with a one-time treatment.

Three-year-old Donovan Weisgarber is one of those patients. When he was born he seemed perfectly healthy. But within weeks, it became clear something was terribly wrong.

Proposed changes to some Medicare prescription drug plans are causing concern among patients with serious health conditions.

Senators Back Drug Imports To Cut State Costs

Mar 26, 2019
Pill bottles in a warehouse
Wikimedia Commons

A Senate panel Monday moved forward with a bill that could allow the state to lower costs by importing drugs from Canada for prisoners and Medicaid patients. 

Stephanie Colombini / WUSF Public Media

Conservative author and health policy expert Avik Roy has a plan for universal health care.

Congress Wades Into Emotional Debate Over High-Cost Prescription Drugs

Jan 30, 2019
Architect of the Capitol

Senators railed against pharmaceutical executives Tuesday for declining to testify before Congress about out-of-control drug prices, as lawmakers on both sides of the U.S. Capitol kicked off investigations sure to rattle one of the nation’s most powerful industries. 

Angela Lautner knew her thirst was unusual, even for someone directing airplanes, outside in the Memphis summer heat.

"We had coolers of Gatorade and water for people to always have access to," Lautner remembers of her job as a ground services agent. "But the amount of thirst that I felt was just incredible."

She had no appetite and she lost an unusual amount of weight. Then after a trip to the emergency room, Lautner, who was 22, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis was life changing.

Forty-five states and the Department of Justice are claiming that generic-drug prices are fixed and the alleged collusion may have cost U.S. business and consumers more than $1 billion.

In their complaint, prosecutors say that when pharmacies asked drugmakers for their lowest price, the manufacturers would rig the bidding process.

When Landon Morris was diagnosed with hemophilia shortly after birth, his mother, Jessica Morris, was devastated. "It was like having your dreams — all the dreams you imagined for your child — just kind of disappear," she recalled.

Hemophilia, a rare bleeding disorder caused by a gene mutation that prevents blood from clotting properly, is typically passed from mother to son. Morris' grandfather had it, and she remembered hearing how painful it was. "It was almost like he was bubble-wrapped," she said. "He was coddled, because his mom didn't want him to get hurt."

Experts Tell Congress How To Cut Drug Prices

Dec 12, 2017
Wikimedia Commons

The nation’s most influential science advisory group will tell Congress today that the U.S. pharmaceutical market is not sustainable and needs to change.

Daylina Miller/Health News Florida

Inspired by a ProPublica story in April that described how nursing homes and their pharmacies nationwide throw away hundreds of tons of valuable medicines — and how one Iowa nonprofit successfully recycles them — two states are working to create similar programs.

For people with diabetes, keeping blood sugar levels in a normal range – not too high or too low – is a lifelong challenge. New technologies to ease the burden are emerging rapidly, but insurance reimbursement challenges, supply shortages, and shifting competition make it tough for patients to access them quickly.

There are few laws in place to keep prescription drug companies from raising their prices to levels unaffordable for many people.

Even before media reports and a congressional hearing vilified Valeant Pharmaceuticals International for raising prices on a pair of lifesaving heart drugs, Dr. Umesh Khot knew something was very wrong.

A bill adding more drugs to Florida’s prescription-medicine price database is heading to Governor Rick Scott’s desk for his signature.

The measure was sponsored by two Jacksonville lawmakers: Rep. Clay Yarborough, R-Jacksonville, and Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach.


John Krahne received alarming news from his doctor last December. His brain tumors were stable, but his lung tumors had grown noticeably larger.

The doctor recommended a drug called Alecensa, which sells for more than $159,000 a year. Medicare would charge Krahne a $3,200 copay in December, then another $3,200 in January, as a new year of coverage kicked in.

Editor's note: Updated at 9:20 am ET to include Mylan's announcement that it will reimburse consumers for some of their out-of-pocket costs.

EpiPens are in your friend's purse and your kid's backpack. The school nurse has a few, as does Grandma.

The medicine inside — epinephrine — has been around forever, and the handy gadget that injects it into your leg is not particularly new either.

Report: US Medicine Spending Up 8.5 Percent

Apr 14, 2016
Associated Press

U.S. spending on prescription drugs rose 8.5 percent last year, slightly less than in 2014, driven mainly by growing use of ultra-expensive new drugs and price hikes on other medicines.

Medicare is going to test new ways to reimburse doctors for medications, in hopes they'll choose less expensive drugs.

The plan would alter Medicare Part B, which pays for medicines administered in doctors offices or outpatient hospital clinics — to eliminate incentives for doctors to use the most expensive drugs.

Pharmacies across the U.S. will begin receiving shipments of a generic form of the revolutionary cancer pill Gleevec this week after the drug lost its patent protection on Monday.

The generic version of drug, known as imatinib, is likely to cost about 30 percent less than brand-name Gleevec, says Kal Sundaram, the CEO of Sun Pharmaceuticals, the Mumbai, India-based company that will make the first generic.

Hemophiliac patients participating in the Medicaid program could have more options for treatment in Florida this year. 

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration wants the federal government to allow three companies to provide care for patients with the rare blood-clotting disorder. 

While hemophilia is rare, treating it is expensive: an average of more than $130,000 a year for each patient. There are just 183 patients on Medicaid with hemophilia, but treatments for those 183 patients cost $24 million.

Lawmakers put the brakes on a Medicaid reimbursement plan this week after Attorney General Pam Bondi attended the bill’s first committee hearing to speak against it.

Medicare officials say researchers and the public will now have an easier way to analyze spending on costly prescription drugs.

Chronically Ill Pay More For Marketplace Plans Than Employer Coverage

Oct 6, 2015
Stethoscope on a pile of dollars.
Flickr Creative Commons

Chronically ill people enrolled in individual health plans sold on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges pay on average twice as much out-of-pocket for prescription drugs each year than people covered through their workplace, according to a study published Monday in the Health Affairs journal.

U.S. Army

Baby boomers dominate the nation’s population.

But analysts watching the health care economy say it’s the youngest health care consumers who are shaping the future health care economy.

PwC's Health Research Institute is in its 10th year of evaluating the nation’s health care economy. Lindsey Jarrell, a PwC partner based in Tampa, says health care companies need to pay close attention to trends involving millennials, those Americans born between 1981 and 1997.

Stethoscope on a pile of dollars.
Flickr Creative Commons

The pushback against soaring cancer drug prices is gaining steam. A leading doctors group this week proposed a formula to help patients decide if a medicine is worth it — what it will cost them and how much good it is likely to do.

The move by the American Society of Clinical Oncology is the third recent effort to focus on value in cancer care. Two weeks ago, the European Society for Medical Oncology proposed a similar guide. Last week, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York posted an online tool suggesting a drug's fair price, based on benefits and side effects.

FL Docs Among Top Tranquilizer Prescribers

Jun 10, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, Medicare’s massive prescription drug program didn’t spend a penny on popular tranquilizers such as Valium, Xanax and Ativan.

The following year, it doled out more than $377 million for the drugs.

While it might appear that an epidemic of anxiety swept the nation’s Medicare enrollees, the spike actually reflects a failed policy initiative by Congress.

MGN Online

U.S. spending on prescription drugs soared last year, driven up primarily by costly breakthrough medicines, manufacturer price hikes and a surge from millions of people newly insured due to the Affordable Care Act.

Spending rose 13 percent, the biggest jump since 2001, to a total of $374 billion, according to a report released Tuesday by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. After accounting for population growth and inflation, the increase equaled 10 percent.

Two health organizations filed a complaint with federal health officials Thursday alleging some Florida insurance companies are violating the Affordable Care Act by structuring their insurance plans in a way that discourage consumers with HIV and AIDS from choosing those plans.

The National Health Law Program and The AIDS Institute of Tampa said four insurance companies offering plans in Florida through the federal online exchange required HIV and AIDS patients to pay a percentage of their often expensive drugs instead of a flat co-pay.

Who Decides Who Gets Costly Drugs?

Mar 12, 2014

New treatments for hepatitis C that cost at least $66,000 to $84,000 may work better than older drugs, but their cost undermines their value to the health system, a panel of experts said during a daylong forum in San Francisco.

“The price makes it very hard for the health care system,” said Steve Pearson, who oversaw the meeting Monday for the California Technology Assessment Forum, a group affiliated with health insurers that holds public meetings to weigh evidence on new treatments.