Drug Prices Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

A study published in May in the Journal of Virus Eradication reported on nine potential medications that could be used to treat the coronavirus. Based on how much these drugs currently cost, researchers projected prices for a generic version. For example, in the case of sofosbuvir (a drug used to treat hepatitis C), the price for a course of treatment would likely be $18,610 in the United States — for a drug that costs $5 to make.1

Other prescription medications may become more expensive as people use them to try to treat the coronavirus, which could make them more scarce for people who need them for their original purposes.2 If you’re concerned about the costs of health care in retirement, we can help you evaluate your insurance options. Give us a call, and let’s talk.

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the new drug remdesivir for emergency use to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients. Its manufacturer, Gilead Sciences, hasn’t yet set the price for remdesivir, but it is expected to run somewhere between $10 and $4,500 for a 10-day course, depending on whether the price is based on the cost of making the drug or the drug’s effectiveness. Gilead is donating its initial supply of 1.5 million doses.3

Of course, it’s not just COVID-19 drugs that are expensive. Spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. grew an average of 3.6% annually from 2008 to 2017. That outpaces other developed nations, including France, which saw a decline in drug spending during this time. One of the reasons cited for the increase is that the U.S. does not have a universal policy that controls drug pricing, unlike some other countries, including France.4

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Mona Chalabi. The Guardian. May 11, 2020. “Soaring drug prices could bar access to future coronavirus treatments.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/11/soaring-drug-prices-could-bar-access-to-future-coronavirus-treatments?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other. Accessed May 21, 2020.

2 Chris Dall. Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. April 23, 2020. “Study calls into question use of malaria drug for COVID-19.” https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/study-calls-question-use-malaria-drug-covid-19. Accessed May 21, 2020.

3 Sydney Lupkin. NPR. May 8, 2020. “Putting A Price On COVID-19 Treatment Remdesivir.” https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/08/851632704/putting-a-price-on-covid-19-treatment-remdesivir. Accessed May 21, 2020.

4 Marc A. Rodwin. The Commonwealth Fund. Nov. 11, 2019. “What Can the United States Learn from Pharmaceutical Spending Controls in France?” https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2019/nov/what-can-united-states-learn-drug-spending-controls-france. Accessed May 21, 2020.

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