High-Price Drugs Raise Costs for Seniors in Medicare Part D

By:  Joseph Walker

Carole Siesser, a retiree in Delray Beach, Fla., started taking a bone-growth drug made by Eli Lilly & Co. after she fell and fractured her spine. After two years, the medicine helped to heal her back. It also cost her $5,600 of her own money to help cover the roughly $26,000 annual price, even though she has Medicare.

“They really take advantage of the seniors,” Ms. Siesser, 79, said of pharmaceutical companies. “There’s no competition, so they can charge what they want.”

An analysis of government data by The Wall Street Journal found expensive medicines are increasingly denting the pocketbooks of seniors and other beneficiaries in Medicare’s prescription-drug program, known as Part D, despite federal legislation meant to reduce out-of-pocket costs and drugmakers’ increasing discounts.

The median out-of-pocket cost for a drug purchased through Part D was $117 in 2015, up nearly half from $79 in 2011, in inflation-adjusted dollars, the Journal’s analysis found. The analysis excluded low-income patients whose copays are paid primarily by the government.

Some 220 Part D drugs had annual out-of-pocket costs of $1,000 or more in 2015, up 86% from 118 drugs in 2011.

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