A massive problem Martin Shkreli zeroed-in on is happening again

It’s easy to write off Martin Shkreli and his dramatic price hike of a 62-year-old drug by 5,000% as a one-time deal.

But that’s not the case. Price hikes in the pharmaceutical industry are incredibly common: Earlier this month, Reuters reported that pharma giant Pfizer raised prices on more than 100 of its drugs.

These kinds of hikes are routine for most pharmaceutical companies because they help them ensure they continue to turn a profit, even as more competition influences the number of prescriptions they fill.

And that applies for drugs under patent, which are typically more expensive to begin with, and generic drugs. Take for example the anti-parasitic medication hydroxychloroquine (with graph courtesy of Rx Savings Solutions).

About hydroxychloroquine:

  • It was originally approved in 1955.
  • It’s used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and is often taken daily for months.
  • It’s generic and most commonly goes by the name Plaquenil in the US. A number of generic manufacturers make it, according to the FDA.
  • It went from $.19 a pill to $2.64 a pill between August 2014 and July 2015, an increase of 1,290%. If taken daily, that’s a difference of about $73 a month. The price has stayed relatively the same since July.

Nothing about the drug has changed in that time, and the fact that it’s generic flies in the face of the argument that lack of generic competition is the reason for drastic price hikes.

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