Second in Our Infographics Series: The High Cost of MS Drugs

Advancements in pharmaceutical development can lead to more effective drugs with fewer side effects. Advancements in pharmaceutical development have the potential to improve and even save lives.

But what happens if not everyone can afford the new drugs?

ACHP and our member plans are committed to achieving better health and better care, at lower costs. We recently released our second infographic in our series illustrating some of the consequences of high prescription drug costs, this time focusing on treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS affects more than 2.5 million people globally, including at least 400,000 Americans. Medications for MS can help people manage their condition and bolster their quality of life – but drug prices are rising at untenable rates. Newer MS drugs sometimes cost 25 percent to 60 percent more than preexisting treatments. First-generation MS drugs, which originally cost from $8,000 to $11,000 a year, can now exceed $60,000 per person annually.

Drug treatments for MS have jumped by as much as 537 percent of their initial market prices. Avonex, the drug with the highest price change since its launch, went from $830 per month in 2001 to $5,286 in 2015. Lemtrada, first introduced in 2014, is even more expensive at $158,000 for two years’ worth of treatment.

Rising drug costs are unsustainable for everyone. Unreasonable drug prices may force consumers to forgo basic necessities to cover costs for medications, while pressuring employers to reduce employee benefits. Health care providers may see poorer health outcomes when their patients limit their intake of unaffordable medications. And declining population health places strain on health plans and other payers, who must provide care for more unhealthy and expensive customers.

As a society we must examine these growing costs, including determining which programs and entities bear the brunt of the burden. If drug costs continue to increase at irrational rates, there will be far-reaching consequences, including in our federal and state budgets.

As we work with stakeholders to develop a solution to this problem, ACHP and our member plans are dedicated to ensuring that appropriate medications – and by extension, quality care – remain accessible to all Americans.

Access our MS drug costs infographic here.

Access our diabetes drug costs infographic here.


-Patricia Smith
President and CEO