Inpatient hospital drug costs jumps more than 38% in 3 years: 4 takeaways

Inpatient hospital drug costs increased by an average of 38.7 percent per admission between 2013 and 2015, according to a recent analysis from the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

For the analysis, researchers examined data from 712 community hospitals and two group purchasing organizations representing more than 1,400 community hospitals, reports the American Hospital Association.

Here are four report findings.

  1. Researchers noted price increases seemed random, inconsistent and unpredictable. Large unit price increases occurred for both low- and high-volume drugs, along with branded and generic medications. Almost half of the drugs examined had no generic competition, according to the report.

  2. More than 90 percent of hospitals surveyed in the analysis reported drug prices holding a moderate to severe impact on their ability to manage hospital budgets.

  3. Researchers examined the unit prices of drugs classified as "high spend" medications — based on volume, price or both — and found large price increases in this medication category. For example, the two GPOs spent about $2 million for calcitonin-salmon, used to treat bone diseases like osteoporosis, in 2013. By 2015, the GPOs spent about $55 million for the drug, which saw a price per unit increase of more than 3,000 percent.

  4. Medicare reimbursement cannot keep up with rapidly increasing inpatient drug prices due to delays in updating the pharmaceutical price index, the researchers noted.

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