Drug prices steam ahead at record pace

Despite the best efforts of private and public payers, the price of top-selling medicines in the U.S. bubbled up 6.9 percent last year--the fastest rate of growth for the past decade.

Barclays Capital says a review of the top 130 meds in the U.S. shows that 2010 managed to just barely nudge ahead of 2009 in terms of price increases. Drugs like Benicar--up 29.3 percent--and the best-selling Gleevec--up more than 20 percent--helped to lead the way. And even some therapies like Lipitor and Plavix, which are on the verge of losing patent protection, saw double-digit price hikes as manufacturers look to squeeze as much as they can from fading brands.

But the sticker prices don't tell the whole story. Manufacturers are raising prices as payers become more effective at wresting bigger rebates from the sellers in exchange for covering the drugs on their most favorable formulary tiers. But ultimately any higher prices are passed along to consumers in the form of higher premiums and co-pays.

- here's the story from the Wall Street Journal