Pharmaceutical companies take a lot of cultural heat for high prices, politicians routinely criticize them to score political points, but at least they did real discovery. One out of 5,000 candidates will make it to market, and then it has to be successfully promoted to make back costs that routinely run into the billions of dollars.

Generic companies, on the other hand, get a free pass. They do no work, they just start manufacturing after the real work has been done and the patent expires. Yet the cost savings generic drugs were supposed to bring has not really come to pass. Companies only take up the profitable ones and when a company does try to make a boutique compound profitable, they are criticized for price gouging.

But generic companies are also routinely charging too much, according to the Pennsylvania Medical Society, which is calling for state- and national-level medical associations to actively address the issue of skyrocketing generic drug prices.

According to a December 2015 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG), 22 percent of the top generic drugs reviewed during a 10-year span between 2005 and 2014 rose faster than inflation, and the Truveris study indicated prescription drug prices rose 10.43 percent in 2015 alone when you combine branded, specialty, and generic drugs. In that study, branded drug costs jumped 14.77 percent and specialty medications increased 9.21 percent. Generics followed at 2.93 percent overall. Patients facing symptoms of menopause and gout saw their medications skyrocket more than 33 percent.

For the sake of comparison, according to the U.S. Inflation Calculator, the inflation rate through December 2015 was less than one percent (.7 percent). Even before the start of 2015, the Federal Reserve was saying inflation would remain far below its 2 percent target through the year.

“Health care costs are always under a microscope,” says Scott Shapiro MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “And, when you see increases that go significantly beyond the inflation rate, it’s going to raise questions.”

Surging prices have hit hundreds of mainstay generics, including anesthetics, chemotherapeutic agents, antibiotics, and nutritional intravenous solutions. The group contends surging prices are a result of anti-competitive behavior, basically generic companies colluding with each other not to charge lower prices.

“The truth is that drug shortages and price spikes are not terribly complex,” says Robert Campbell MD, chair of Physicians Against Drug Shortages and immediate past president of the Pennsylvania Society of Anesthesiologists, adding that there’s growing concern within the medical community. “If you consider one simple fact – high demand and low supply at high prices – what possible explanations are there for such a condition?”

Joel Fiedler, MD, in Health Affairs Blog, noticed that rising prices in generics like Mylan NV’s albuterol sulfate—used to treat wheezing and shortness of breath caused by breathing problems such as asthma – increased about 4,000 percent from 2013 to 2014.

Rising drug costs in general has even sparked debate among some presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, but they have primarily been targeting pharmaceutical companies doing original work, and those candidates have given generic companies positive spin.  That has not helped the public.

“What good are medications if they price themselves out and patients decide to forego a visit to the pharmacy because it would create a financial strain,” asks Dr. Shapiro. “I can understand that some of the increase comes as a result of research needs, but when it outpaces inflation by large margins, tough questions need to be asked and solutions need to be found.”

Source: Pennsylvania Medical Society