US payments on prescription drugs rose 12.2% in 2015: 7 things to know

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Total spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. increased by 12.2 percent in 2015 reaching nearly $425 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The spending growth on prescription drugs is consistent with that of recent years, fueled mostly by the introduction of expensive new drugs for cancer and infections, as well as rising prices for older therapies, according to research from IMS Health, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Here are seven more things to know about U.S. spending on prescriptions in 2015, according to the report.

1. The spending growth rate in 2015 is down slightly from 2014, during which time payments on prescription drugs rose by 14.2 percent. However, the growth rate for 2015 still exceeds the average for the past decade.

2. Drugmakers have faced increasing criticism from politicians, insurers, healthcare providers and consumers over inaccessibly high drug prices in recent years. The pharmaceutical companies have defended their pricing practices by pointing to the rebates and discounts they offer on drugs' list prices, though they don't disclose the specific size of discounts.

3. Industry lobby group The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America released a statement saying the IMS research confirms drug costs are abating "due to a competitive marketplace for medicines where large, powerful purchasers negotiate aggressively and generic utilization rates are nearly 90 percent," according to The Wall Street Journal.

4. The IMS estimated drugmakers received $309.5 billion for U.S. prescription drugs in 2015 after factoring in rebates and other price breaks, up 8.5 percent from 2014. The total spending amount — $425 billion — comes from the list prices that pharmacies and hospital customers pay drug wholesalers, the IMS report said.

5. While the IMS estimated the average list price for patented brand drugs rose by 12.4 percent in 2015, the net price growth was 2.8 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. In 2014, list prices for patented brands increased by 14.3 percent, compared with net price growth of 5.1 percent.

6. The average share of the cost patients pay for brand name prescriptions drugs has risen by more than 25 percent since 2010, reaching $44 per prescription in 2015, according to the report.

7. Gilead Science's drug Harvoni to treat hepatitis C, which opened to the market in 2014, was the top-selling drug in the U.S. in 2015 with an estimated $14.3 billion in sales before factoring in discounts and rebates. Similarly, AbbVie's Humira and Amgen's Enbrel, which treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, were the second- and third-highest selling drugs, respectively, according to the report.

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