Even with insurance, patients might pay thousands of dollars a month out of pocket.

Skyrocketing drug prices all around. It doesn't matter if you have insurance or not. USA Today reports on the cost of drugs patients need to stay alive: 

  • A drug for cystic fibrosis, a lung disease that kills most patients by their early 40s, costs more than $300,000 a year.
  • New cancer drugs are routinely priced at more than $100,000 a year — nearly twice the average household income.
  • Drugs for multiple sclerosis, which cost $8,000 to $11,000 a year in the 1990s, now sell for about $60,000 a year, according to an April study in Neurology.
  • Sovaldi, a drug designed to cure hepatitis C, costs $1,000 a pill. It claims to cure 90% of chronic hepatitis C patients in 12 weeks. Patients take one pill a day. So that's $7,000 per week, and $84,000 for 12 weeks. 
  • The cost of new cancer drugs has been increasing by 10% a year, according to a working paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspective. The authors of the article noted that drug companies tend to price new drugs just slightly more than comparable drugs, leading prices to creep up every year.

Why have drug prices skyrocketed? All Americans have insurance now, whether employers provide it or its bought through the ACA. 

USA Today reports that competition hasn't help drive prices down:

The landmark drug Gleevec, which transformed chronic myeloid leukemia from a death sentence into a chronic disease, cost $31,488 when it was approved in 2001, according to its manufacturer, Novartis. Its cost has since tripled — to more than $110,000 — even though it now competes with two similar drugs.

So what's the solution? How can we get Big Pharma to control their big prices when people's lives are at risk? 

Leonard Saltz, chief of gastrointestinal oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, is one physician taking a stand against cancer drugs that he admits cost too much for his patients. 

Saltz and his colleagues have refused to use two drugs that cost more than their competitors.

In 2012, the hospital decided to stop stocking one of these drugs because it cost more than twice the price of a drug that worked just as well. Saltz and two of his colleagues then wrote about their decision in a newspaper editorial.

Within three weeks, Saltz said, the company offered doctors and hospitals a 50% discount, USA Today reports.

Which leads one to question, what are the prices of these drugs really based on, if they can slash 50 percent off the bill in the blink of an eye? Do the go-to excuses of research and development work for you? Sound off below. 

WATCH this episode of "Off The Grid" to follow Big Pharma's money trail:

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.

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