This arthritis drug cost $198 in 2008. Now it's more than $10,000
In 2008, a box of 30 anti-inflammatory rectal suppositories that treats arthritis, called Indocin, had a price tag of $198. As of Oct. 1, the price of that same box was 52 times higher, totaling $10,350.
Why it matters: As federal lawmakers continue to waver on drug price reforms, Indocin is another example of how nothing prevents drug companies from hiking prices at will and selling them within a broken supply chain.
Driving the news: Indocin has changed ownership multiple times over the years, and the companies involved have controversial histories.
- Iroko Pharmaceuticals, the original owner of Indocin suppositories, consistently raised the drug's price.
- Indocin's list price (what uninsured patients would pay) was $198 for 30 suppositories in 2008. Iroko raised it to $2,550 by January 2018 after more than a dozen separate increases, according to Elsevier's Gold Standard Drug Database.
- Later in 2018, Iroko was going bankrupt and sold itself to another small company called Egalet.
- After Egalet acquired Iroko's drugs, Egalet significantly increased prices. We reported on one of those large price hikes in 2019.
- Egalet doubled the price of Indocin, to $5,100, months after the company acquired it, according to Elsevier's pricing database.
- Egalet then changed its name to Zyla Life Sciences in 2019, right after its price hikes were aired.
- Zyla raised the price on Indocin again, to $5,604.90 in January 2020, and then sold itself to a separate drug company called Assertio in May 2020.
- Assertio previously was named Depomed, a company that sold a controversial opioid.
- Since acquiring Indocin, Assertio has marked up the price twice: first to $6,159.79 at the start of this year, and then again this month to $10,350.
- Indocin sales hit $27.7 million in the first half of this year, representing more than half of Assertio's revenue. That total was five times higher than $5.4 million collected during the same period of 2020.
- Walbert and Horizon have been criticized for their pricing practices and drug formulations.
What they're saying: A spokesperson for Horizon Therapeutics told Axios that "Walbert has not been involved with Assertio for approximately a year and as a result does not wish to comment."
- Assertio did not respond to interview requests.
The bottom line: Indocin is a small drug within the pharmaceutical industry, but it shows how the Martin-Shkreli-type price increases never disappeared and occur for numerous drugs that fly under the radar.