Pharma hikes prices on all sorts of meds, but hit diabetes hardest: Bloomberg

Here are more stats for the price-increase tally: Twenty-seven drug brands took 20% price increases last year, and dozens saw prices at least double over the past 5 years, Bloomberg reports. Once again, the usual suspects top the price-increase lists. And diabetes products are conspicuously present.

With a 351% increase, Jazz Pharmaceuticals' ($JAZZ) narcolepsy drug Xyrem came in first place for 5-year hikes. Welchol, the Daiichi Sankyo cholesterol med, topped the list of last year's hikes with a 40.3% increase. Mylan's ($MYL) EpiPen came in close behind with a 32% increase.

The big price hikes covered a variety of diseases and drugs, many of them nearing the end of their patent lives. Drugmakers tend to raise the prices of aging meds, trying to eke out as much profit as they can as the patent clock runs out. Hence Sanofi's ($SNY) Renvela, one of 2014's biggest price hikes; that kidney drug went off patent last September. And Welchol, too; a patent settlement allowed generics to hit the market in early March 2015.

But as Bloomberg points out, there's a striking sameness in several drugs on the list of the biggest price hikes, both last year and over the last 5. Those would be the diabetes treatments Lantus (Sanofi), Novolog (Novo Nordisk), Levemir (also Novo Nordisk), and Humulin (Eli Lilly). Lantus and Levemir each went up by 29.9% in 2014; over the past 5, Levemir went up by 169% and Lantus by 168%. Plus, their price hikes came in tandem, Bloomberg notes, and in all-but-identical increments.

Of course these wholesale prices don't include payer discounts, which are growing bigger by the day. Sanofi, battling Novo ($NVO) for share in the basal insulin market, discounted Lantus going into 2015--to an extent where the drug's sales slid by 13% in the U.S. during the first quarter, dragging Sanofi's entire diabetes franchise down by 3%.

- here's the Bloomberg story

Special Reports: Top 10 biggest drug price increases - Xyrem - Humulin - Lantus | Top 10 drug patent losses of 2014 - Renagel/Renvela