Drug Companies Pushing Up Prices In Patent-Ending Panic

Get it while you can, big drug companies! Pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer Inc, AstraZeneca and Bristol Meyers Squibb are feeling a little panicky as the deadlines loom on patents for some of their best-selling drugs, so what do they do? Up the prices now, before those pesky generic versions arrive to drive consumer costs down.

Reuters reports that prices in the U.S. for certain brand-name drugs like Lipitor, Plavix, Singulair and 12 other of the biggest sellers rose by much higher rates in 2010 than they had in the previous five years. Their figures are based on data from Thomson Reuters MarketScan, which looked at the average cost of a daily dose as indicated in medical claims data.

As the numbers show that two thirds of those popular designer drugs went up by double digits, analysts point to a pretty obvious reason for the inflation: drug makers want to wring out every last penny they can while the getting is good: IMS health estimates that $24.5 billion in U.S. drug sales are at risk for competition from generic brands this year, while another $26.1 billion in sales will lose patent protection in 2012.

And it’s not even the drugs that are close to losing their patents — Everett Neville, vice president of pharma strategy at Express Scripts Inc, tells Reuters: “what we have seen over the last few years are bigger increases for products that are early or mid-way in their patent cycle.”

Bad news for drug companies seems like good news for consumers, no?

Branded drug prices soar as generic pressure rises [Reuters]