Drugmakers hike prices on more than 700 drugs, including Ozempic

Must read

Fighting rising prescription drug costs

Fighting rising prescription drug costs 07:59

Pharmaceutical companies are hiking prices for more than 700 medications, including popular weight-loss drugs Ozempic and Mounjaro, industry research shows.

The average price increase at year start was about about 4.5%, the analysis from 46 Brooklyn found. That represents a slightly slower pace compared with the five prior years, when drug prices rose about 5% each year on average, the data shows. 

Among the noteworthy increases are Ozempic and Mounjaro, two drugs that belong to a class of medications called GLP-1 agonists. While these drugs are designed to help diabetics regulate their blood sugar, they’ve also been found to be effective weight-loss drugs, prompting non-diabetics to seek out the drugs in order to slim down. As a result, these drugs have been in greater demand, leading to shortages

The price of Ozempic, which is manufactured by Novo Nordisk, rose 3.5% to $984.29 for a month’s supply, while Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro rose 4.5% to about $1,000 for a month’s worth of the medication, the 46 Brooklyn data shows.

Eli Lilly didn’t immediately return a request for comment. In a statement to CBS MoneyWatch, Novo Nordisk said that it “increases the list price of some of our medicines each year in response to changes in the health care system, market conditions and the impact of inflation.”

Prices are increasing this year for many other widely used drugs:

  • Autoimmune disease medication Enbrel rose 5%
  • Pain medication Oxycontin rose 9%
  • Blood thinner Plavix rose 4.7%
  • Antidepressant Wellbutrin rose 9.9%

“Technically, most brand prescription drug list price increases occur in either January or July each year, but the greatest number take place in January (and thus, January gets all the attention),” 46 Brooklyn wrote in a blog post about the drug increases. “By our counts, since 2018, more than 60% of all brand drug list price increases that occur throughout the course of each year are implemented in the month of January.”

46 Brooklyn’s analysis may not reflect what a patient ultimately pays for a drug. Their analysis is based on the wholesale acquisition cost, which is the price that drugmakers charge to wholesalers that distribute the drugs to pharmacies. Patients may pay less due to insurance coverage as well as rebates and other discounts.

Novo Nordisk said its list price isn’t representative of what most insured patients pay out of pocket. “That’s because after we set the list price, we negotiate with the companies that pay for our medicines (called payers) to ensure our products remain on their formularies so patients have access to our medicines,” the company said. “These payers then work directly with health insurance companies to set prices and co-pay amounts.”

Where drug prices are dropping

Not all medications saw price hikes, with the analysis finding that about two dozen medications dropped sharply in price at year start, including some popular insulin products. The high cost of insulin has drawn attention from the Biden administration and health policy experts, with the Human Rights Watch terming its pricing in the U.S. as a human rights violation. 

The decline in insulin prices comes after Medicare, the insurance program for people 65 and older, capped the monthly price of insulin at $35. That prompted some drugmakers to slash the cost of insulin for a broader group of patients. The price of Novo Nordisk insulin products, sold under the Novolog brand name, declined 75% compared with a year earlier, the analysis found. 

Other medications that saw price cuts include:

  • Erectile dysfunction drug Cialis dropped 19%
  • Antidepressant Prozac declined 18%
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease medication Advair declined 22% to 60%, depending on the formulation

While the decreases impact a small number of drugs compared with the hundreds that saw price hikes, they are nevertheless “truly remarkable from a historical perspective,” 46 Brooklyn noted. 

“This phenomenon is particularly noteworthy due to the nature of the drugs that underwent decreases, primarily comprising historically high-utilization products such as insulins, asthma/COPD inhalers, and central nervous system (CNS) drugs,” the group noted.

Aimee Picchi

Aimee Picchi is the associate managing editor for CBS MoneyWatch, where she covers business and personal finance. She previously worked at Bloomberg News and has written for national news outlets including USA Today and Consumer Reports.

Thanks for reading CBS NEWS.

Create your free account or log in

for more features.

Please enter email address to continue

Please enter valid email address to continue

More articles

Latest article