The Most Expensive Prescription Drugs in the United States

The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest and most profitable industries in the world, with annual worldwide sales expected to top $1.1 trillion by the end of 2014. Of the major consumers of prescription drugs, the United States accounts for over a third of the pharmaceutical industry’s total profit with an average of roughly $340 billion in sales. In 2011 when comprehensive statistics were last available, it was estimated that seven out of ten Americans were taking prescription medication, filling out a total of 3,764,698,318 prescriptions for the calendar year. While these statistics in and of themselves are staggering, almost seventy percent of Americans filling prescriptions annually, what’s even more staggering is that for some, these prescriptions can cost them upwards of six figures. Though the majority of people who take prescription medications are taking relatively affordable drugs for anxiety, depression or pain, the least lucky Americans find themselves taking extremely expensive drugs for rare conditions that can cost more than a house. Here are the five most expensive prescription drugs in the United States.

7. Myozyme: $100,000 - $300,000 Annually

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Myozyme is a drug whose price varies depending on whether it is used for treatment in a child or an adult. The drug is used in the treatment of Pompe, a rare but very serious disease that wreaks havoc on the skeletal muscles of a patient, as well as the heart. If Pompe is diagnosed in infants, the majority of the children die within a year, meaning this drug is largely aimed at adults, where studies have shown that Myozyme has prolonged the survival rate in people suffering from Pompe.

6. Acthar: $300,000 Annually

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Ironically enough, one of the most expensive drugs on the U.S. market is not even FDA approved, resulting in many who need it having difficulty getting their medical insurance companies to help cover the costs of the drug. Despite, or perhaps because of, Acthar’s lack of FDA approval, the drug that costs $30,000 per prescription sees annual sales of nearly $800 million. Like many drugs on this list, it is manufactured to help treat illnesses in children; Acthar is used to treat seizures in infants under the age of two.

1 Folotyn: $320,000 Annually

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T-cell lymphoma is a very rare type of lymphoma, its prevalence is about 2 in 100,000, but it is also extremely aggressive. Once the lymphoma has spread and becomes peripheral T-cell lymphoma it has essentially affecedt the entire body, rendering the cells that fight viruses useless. It is when a patient reaches this stage that Folotyn, manufactured by Allos Therapeutics, is a six-week treatment prescribed as a last-ditch effort to destroy the cancer. It is essentially a last stand against cancer when all other treatments have proven ineffective. While the drug has been shown to actually kill cancer cells, studies have indicated that the extremely expensive last resort, with upwards of $50 million in sales annually, does not prolong a patient’s life at all, making Folotyn a very expensive shot in the dark.

4. Cinryze: $350,000 Anually

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Another drug that costs patients well into the six figures, Cinryze is a medication to treat a hereditary disorder called angioedema. Angioedema is a rare condition that affects roughly 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 50,000 people in the U.S. and can be life threatening, as it causes severe swelling of the hands, throat and abdomen among other body parts. The disease is caused by a malfunction in the C1 inhibitor that promotes immune system function and blood clotting, resulting in dangerous swelling. Cinryze is an intravenous medication manufactured by ViroPharma, and comprised of human blood, which helps elevate the C1 levels in patients. Though it is wildly expensive, hence annual sales that hover close to the $400 million mark, it has been proven to help prevent swelling and ease the pain of the disease.

3. Naglazyme: $365,000 Annually

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As tragic as it is that there is a drug on the market that costs patients $1,000 a day, the real tragedy is that the condition it treats is for a disease that afflicts children, a rare connective tissue disorder known as Maroteaux–Lamy syndrome. Children with this disorder do not develop muscles, joints and tissues properly, often leaving them with a form of dwarfism. Almost all children with Maroteaux–Lamy syndrome have heart disease, and in some cases it can cause neurological damage, deafness, eye damage and brain damage. The drug is manufactured by Biomarin and has been proven to help promote tissue growth and joint mobility in patients. A high cost, but one many parents would ultimately deem worth it.

2. Elaprase: $375,000 Annually

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With annual sales of nearly an astonishing $500 million dollars in 2012 alone it’s no wonder Elaprase costs more than many people’s homes. Elaprase is used in the treatment of Hunter syndrome, a condition that affects roughly 500 people in the United States. Hunter syndrome is an inherited, and incurable condition that generally manifests in childhood, inhibiting physical growth and impairing mental development. The condition develops as a result of either a malfunction of an integral enzyme that breaks down sugars in the body, or the absence of the enzyme all together. Elaprase, which is manufactured by Shire, is an injected drug that replaces the missing enzyme and improves those 1 in 150,000 suffering from the syndrome’s effects - inability to walk. Small comfort and an exorbitant monetary cost for those whose children have inherited the condition.

1. Soliris: $440,000 Annually

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Though most of the prescription drugs on this list are extremely expensive, the majority of them do not yield overly positive results for their patients. Fittingly enough, however, the most expensive prescription medication in the United States, Soliris, has actually proven to be very effective. Soliris is used in the treatment of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, an extremely rare (only about 8,000 Americans suffer from it) blood stem cell disorder that destroys patient’s red blood cells, making them susceptible to infection, severe anemia and blood clots. Although only approved to treat paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria since 2007, Soliris, which is manufactured by Alexion Pharmaceuticals, reached annual sales of $1.55 billion in 2013, and while the prescription drug is the most expensive drug in the United States, studies have shown that treatment with Soliris can reduce the complications of paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria by up to 90%. As of 2011 Soliris was also FDA approved to treat, with positive results, atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome another rare and sometimes fatal condition making it not only the most expensive, but also the most successful, prescription drug on this list as well.

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