Senator Tina Smith Joins Colleagues Calling Out Drug Manufacturers For Squeezing American Families With Rapid, Widespread Price Hikes on Prescription Drugs

Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) joined a group of Senate and House colleagues in a letter to the CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) expressing concern over findings from two new analyses that reveal troubling, widespread, and rapid price increases for brand name drugs in January 2022.

 “The large, across-the-board price increases of popular, brand name prescription drugs appear to be an example of pharmaceutical companies taking advantage of their abusive market power to expand already-large profits. And the coordinated and timely price increases ring of political opportunism,” the lawmakers wrote.

The average price for all brand name drugs increased more than 5% in January 2022, a rate almost twice as high as overall inflation for medical care services for all of 2021. Additionally, in just one month, the 20 top-selling Medicare Part D drugs increased by an average of nearly 4%, which was almost 1.5 times as high as overall inflation for medical care services over the past year.

These price hikes affect the vast majority of popular brand name drugs and hurt consumers dealing with record high prices throughout the economy. The price increases hit older Americans and people with disabilities in the Medicare program especially hard. The price increases for the top 20 Medicare Part D drugs, if also reflected in total expenditures, would increase costs for consumers and taxpayers by an estimated $2.5 billion. The lawmakers are calling out drug manufacturers for further driving up inflation by abusing their market power and price-gouging American families.  

“These evaluations suggest rapid price hikes affecting the vast majority of popular brand name drugs, particularly those used by seniors and people with disabilities in the Medicare program. These analyses reveal that drug manufacturers are using their market power to impose extraordinary price increases, which also have the effect of driving up general inflation,” the lawmakers wrote. “This behavior by drug manufacturers – which will drive up their already-exorbitant profits at the expense of middle-class families in need of medical care – demands an explanation.”

One of the analyses by Steve Schondelmeyer of the University of Minnesota PRIME Institute found that drug manufacturers increased prices for 72% of all formulations of the 100 top-selling drugs in January 2022, with a 5.1% average price increase for brand name drug products. A separate analysis provided by Johns Hopkins University researchers revealed that manufacturers increased prices for 16 of the top-selling 20 Medicare Part D drugs in January 2022, by an average of 3.9%. Some drug prices skyrocketed. For example, manufacturers increased the price of Humira, used to treat autoimmune diseases, by 7.4%. The price of a three-month supply of the cancer drug Revlimid increased by nearly $3,600 in January, and the price of the breast cancer drug Ibrance increased by over $900.

As Congress considered legislation to lower drug prices last year, PhRMA and lobbyists for big pharmaceutical companies fought against pieces of the legislation aimed at lowering costs for Americans. Provisions in President Biden’s legislative proposal would improve and expand Medicare and Medicaid; allow Medicare to negotiate with drug manufacturers for lower prices; cut costs for older Americans and people with disabilities; and impose new penalties on manufacturers to prevent rapid drug price increases that spike more inflation. But when the legislation stalled in December 2021, so did the threat to pharmaceutical manufacturers’ price gouging practices. The lawmakers slammed drug manufacturers’ almost immediate price hikes at the expense of middle-class families.  

Senator Smith joined Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Representatives Katie Porter (D-Calif.) Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and Susan Wild (D-Pa.).

The lawmakers have requested a response no later than March 8, 2022.

·       Text of Letter (PDF)

·       John Hopkins University Analysis of January 2022 Price Increases for Top 20 Medicare Drugs (PDF)

·       Schondelmeyer Analysis of Prescription Drug Price Changes in January 2022 (PDF)