What Soaring Drug Prices Mean For Patients



WE'VE ALL HEARD about the eye-popping price tags: Cancer drugs that cost $14,000 a month. New hepatitis C drugs pegged at $84,000 for a course of treatment. Such prices are one reason why specialty drug spending in the U.S. is projected to grow from $87 billion in 2012 to $400 billion by 2020. Consumers aren’t happy about it. More than three-quarters of Americans support limits on how much drug companies can charge for high-cost drugs, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Doctors also have become increasingly outspoken about the skyrocketing prices of drugs that treat diseases such as cancer, hepatitis C and cystic fibrosis. Meanwhile, a handful of states have introduced legislation in a bid to force drug makers to justify their prices. This webinar will offer insights into what’s driving the price increases, explain how these costs impact patients and consumers, and suggest ways in which journalists can cover this evolving story.

Webinars are free and made possible by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation

The Health Matters Webinar series is supported by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. The Center for Health Journalism is solely responsible for the selection of webinar topics and speakers.


Dr. Peter B. Bach

Dr. Peter B. Bach, director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, is a physician, epidemiologist, researcher, and respected health care policy expert whose work focuses on the cost and value of anticancer drugs. Dr. Bach is leading efforts to increase understanding of the U.S. drug development process and develop new models for drug pricing that include value to patients as a critical component. As the cost of specialty drugs continues to grow, he argues, prices are no longer rational, and a better pricing system could increase patient access to life-saving medications at lower costs while spurring innovation.


Dr. Mollyann Brodie leads Kaiser Family Foundation’s public opinion survey program, including the monthly Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, the Foundation’s work on Americans’ attitudes toward global health policy, and the ongoing survey partnerships with media organizations including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NPR. Dr. Brodie’s efforts focus on understanding public opinion and knowledge on health care policy issues and the role of opinion in health policy debates. Dr. Brodie is the President of the American Association of Public Opinion Research.

Kristin Espeland Gourlay

Kristin Espeland Gourlay is the health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio. Her 2014 radio series “At the Crossroads” looked at the rise of hepatitis C and the emergence of extremely effective — and prohibitively expensive — new drugs to treat it. The series led to a packed forum and a joint hearing in the state legislature. After her series aired, several hepatitis drugs were added to the state Medicaid formulary. Gourlay has won multiple national, regional, and local awards for her reporting, and her work has aired on NPR and stations throughout the country.


Dr. Mollyann Brodie's webinar slides:


Dr. Peter B. Bach's webinar slides:


Kristin Gourlay's webinar slides:


Suggested reading & resources

Why Drugs Cost So Much,” by Peter S. Bach, The New York Times

Drug Prices Soar, Prompting Calls for Justification,” by Andrew Pollack, The New York Times

Pharmaceutical Companies Buy Rivals’ Drugs, Then Jack Up the Prices,” by Jonathan D. Rockoff, WSJ 

How to Think About Higher Growth in Health-Care Spending,” by Drew Altman, WSJ

High Prices for Drugs Attacked at Meeting,” by Joseph Walker, WSJ

An 'Utterly Broken' Drug Market: The High Cost of Surviving Cancer,” Anne Thompson, NBC News

At least 7 states limit patient costs for high-priced drugs,” by Michael Ollove, Stateline

"Costly but effective new therapies mark new era in hep C treatment," by Kristin Gourlay, Center for Health Journalism Digital 

"At The Crossroads: New Hep C Drugs Promise A Cure, For A Big Price," by Kristin Gourlay, Rhode Island Public Radio

"Wider Reach Is Sought for Costly New Hepatitis C Treatments," by Robert Pear, The New York Times

"How Much Should Cancer Drugs Cost?" by Peter Loftus, WSJ

"New Drug Sharply Lowers Cholesterol, but It’s Costly," by Andrew Pollack, NYT

Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: August 2015: The Public’s Views On Prescription Drugs,” Kaiser Family Foundation

More expensive specialty drugs boost overall prescription drug spending,” by Rabah Kamal, Kaiser Family Foundation

Kaiser Family Foundation poll showing support for granting Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices,” Kaiser Family Foundation

High-Cost Generic Drugs — Implications for Patients and Policymakers,” by Jonathan D. Alpern, William M. Stauffer, and Aaron S. Kesselheim, The New England Journal of Medicine

In Support of a Patient-Driven Initiative and Petition to Lower the High Price of Cancer Drugs,” Ayalew Tefferi et al., Mayo Clinic Proceedings