Drug companies have slapped a series of huge price hikes on some prescription drugs ahead of drug patent expirations, the Wall Street Journal reports. GlaxoSmithKline has raised the price of antidepressant Wellbutrin 44.5%, while Sanofi-Aventis hiked Ambien's price 70%. Wholesale prices for the top 50 drugs increased an average of nearly 8% last year.
Some price hikes are designed to nudge consumers off now-more-expensive brands whose patents are about to expire to reformulated brands with longer patent protection. The increases are driving up co-pays and health insurance costs. With few new drugs in the pipeline, maximizing profit on existing drugs has become essential. All the leading presidential candidates have been critical of the pharmaceutical giants and their prices.