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Retail prices of dermatology drugs skyrocketed 401 percent

Staff writer |
Patients using prescription creams, gels, sprays and pills for skin conditions may shell out substantially more at the pharmacy than they did just six years ago, a new study suggests.

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Between 2009 and 2015, retail prices of brand-name dermatologic drugs rose 401 percent, on average, study authors reported.

Even generics have succumbed to price inflation, up 279 percent between 2011 and 2014, based on the drugs surveyed.

Price increases for skin treatments far outpaced the general inflation rate of 11 percent during the six-year study period, the researchers said.

"Cancer drugs were the worst in terms of the numbers" - up 1,240 percent or nearly $11,000 over the six-year study period - primarily because of two medicines, said Dr. Steven Rosenberg, voluntary professor of dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and senior author of the study.

"But if you look at some of the other products that are prescribed very frequently, they went up, some of them 10-fold just in one year, with no explanation that I can think of," said Rosenberg, who has monitored brand-name dermatologic drug prices since 2009 and generic drug prices since 2011.

Dermatology drugs have not grabbed headlines like expensive cancer and hepatitis medicines have, Rosenberg said. Yet patients increasingly are forced to pay retail prices to get their medications as health plans have adopted increasingly restrictive drug "formularies," or lists of covered drugs, according to the study.

The 2014 expansion of health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act has done little to curb the rising price of prescription drugs, the authors said.

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