Drug makers jack prices up 7.8%

Maybe drug makers shouldn't be surprised when presidential candidates hammered them for high prices. Last year, drugmakers continued to raise the costs of prescription drugs, according to a market study by Delta Marketing Dynamics. Wholesale prices for the 50 top-selling brands rose by an average of 7.82 percent in 2007, compared with a 6.73 percent hike in 2006 and 6.22 percent in 2005. The 2007 price jump is almost double the annual inflation rate of 4.1 percent.

Some individual drugs went up by as much as 70 percent. GlaxoSmithKline hiked the price of antidepressant Wellbutrin XL by 44.5 percent from 2005 to 2007. Sanofi-Aventis raised the price of sleep aid Ambien by 70.1 percent, and Shire increased the price of its ADHD med Adderall XR by 33.5 percent. Lipitor, the world's top-seller and a big moneymaker for Pfizer, went up by 16 percent.

A couple of caveats, though. In some cases, experts say, the price-raising is a strategy for shifting patients from meds soon to lose patent protection and to newer products that are, for now, cheaper. That way, they keep customers rather than losing them to generics. Also, the price figures Delta used don't include discounts and rebates given to big buyers.

- see the item in The Wall Street Journal Health Blog
- read more in The Wall Street Journal