Drugs in bottles Drugmakers arguethat peer reviews or real-world evidence of the benefits of theirdrugs should have been included included in the report's analysis.(Photo: ShutterstocK)

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Drug manufacturers in 2017 and 2018 hiked the prices of sevendrugs to the tune of $5.1 billion–despite no new clinical evidencethe drugs had improved, according to Institute for Clinical andEconomic Review's Unsupported Price Increase Report.

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Drugs with unsupported price increases, according to thenonprofit include, Humira, with a 15.9 percent net price increase,resulting in $1,857 of increased spending; Rituxan, 23.6 percent,$806; Lyrica, 22.2 percent, $688; Truvada, 23.1 percent, $550;Neulasta, 13.4 percent, $489; Cialis, 32.5 percent, $403; andTecfidera, 9.8 percent, $313.

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Related: CVS Caremark going after 'hyperinflated' drugcosts

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The report, first in a new series, is the result of statepolicymakers asking the nonprofit to research and identify drugs"for which there was no new clinical evidence that could supporttheir price increases."

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"The price of many existing drugs, both brand and generic, canincrease substantially over time, and questions are frequentlyraised regarding whether these price increases are justified," ICERwrites. "State policymakers have been particularly active inseeking measures to address this issue."

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The report cites laws in California and Vermont that requiredrug manufacturers to submit information that might justifyincreases above a certain threshold.

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"Despite these initiatives, there has been no systematicapproach at a state or national level to determine whether certainprice increases are justified by new clinical evidence or otherfactors," ICER writes.

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In an appendix, the nonprofit listed manufacturers' responses tothe findings. Many said that peer reviews or real-world evidence ofthe benefits of their drugs should have been included in ICER'sanalyses, but the nonprofit replied that neither supports priceincreases because the drugs had not been improved.

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Some manufacturers justified price increases for other reasons,including Neulasta maker Amgen Inc.

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"Based on actual data, Neulasta's net price change for theperiod evaluated is in line with inflation," the manufacturerwrites. "Amgen understands that the cost of prescription drugs is aconcern for many people, and we are committed to the responsiblepricing of our innovative medicines.

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"For 2019, the projected weighted average list price increaseacross Amgen's entire US portfolio of products is less than 3percent, aligned with overall inflation and key pricing indices.For many Amgen medicines, there are no price increases. Amgenexpects a single digit decline in the net price across ourportfolio of all products in 2019 due to rebates and discountsnegotiated with payers, providers, and others in the drugdistribution chain to ensure patients continue to have access toour medicines."

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Amgen has publicly acknowledged that Neulasta's net sellingprice actually decreased by 1 percent in 2018 and is expected "todecline by mid-single digits in 2019."

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While ICER responded to most of the manufacturers' comments byjustifying its methodology, the nonprofit's response to Amgen'scomments was "Thank you for this information."

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Meanwhile, Congress currently has two competing drug pricingplans up for consideration: a bipartisan Senate plan and "a moresweeping plan" from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.),according to The Hill.

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"Reducing the cost of prescription drugs is a bipartisan issue,but it can be difficult to tell just how much patients pay," TheHill writes. "Drug companies argue a drug's list price—whichdoesn't reflect the discounts negotiated with insurers or throughpatient assistance programs— is often higher than what the patientactually pays."

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"However, the ICER report focused on total U.S. drug spendingrather than per-unit costs," the publication writes.

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Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in Running Springs, Calif. She has more than three decades of journalism experience, with particular expertise in employee benefits and other human resource topics.