OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- One hundred thousand dollars a year. That's how much a specialty drug can cost. They're newer medicines for diseases like multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C and cancer. Many insurers and others say the costs are bankrupting our health care system.
Courtney Eiterich is grateful that she can walk eight years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She credits the drug Tysabri. She used to get an infusion every month. Now it's every six weeks. Each dose costs $13,000.
"It's outrageous. I mean, who can afford $13,000 out of pocket every month. You can't. So you have to have insurance, and if you don't have insurance, I don't know what your options are," said Eiterich.
Eiterich got insurance through the federal marketplace that covers a good part of the cost. But she knows that high prices for her drug and other specialty drugs are costing everyone in taxes and in higher insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays. Specialty drugs now account for nearly a third of America's spending on prescription drugs even though they make up only one percent of prescriptions.
This week, the American College of Physicians, which represents internal medicine specialists, was among those who went to Capitol Hill.
The group told lawmakers that America needs a drug pricing structure based on value and data-driven evidence that balances the interests of innovative drug manufacturers and those of society.
"I don't blame the pharmaceutical companies. I mean, they have their expenses," said Eiterich.
Drug makers point to the costs of research and development and claim their drugs save money in the long run by reducing other health care costs.
"I think the bigger issue is that it's just not available for everybody," said Eiterich.
Not those without insurance. Not at $13,000 a dose.
Last year, the Medicare program alone spent $4.5 billion on new drugs for hepatitis C. Those drugs can cure the vast majority of people with that disease.