A Bitter Pill

How rising drug costs put our health care system and the greater economy at risk, and endanger the lives of millions. 

The high cost of prescriptions

We are all painfully aware of escalating costs for prescription drugs and many of us have experienced this hardship personally. You may know someone who has skipped filling a prescription, cut their pills in half or changed their spending habits in other areas due to drug costs.  What is especially frustrating to many, including those actively trying to rein in out-of-control drug costs, is a lack of transparency around pricing strategies from leading companies in the pharmaceutical industry. ICCR members have initiated a campaign that will attempt to remedy this by having drug companies report more fully on their drug pricing strategies. 

According to the National Patient Advocate Foundation, one in five American families will struggle to pay a medical debt this year. Americans paid $310 billion (after taxes and rebates) for drugs in 2015, an 8.5% increase over 2014, while the Cost of Living Adjustment and the Consumer Price Index were both relatively flat at roughly 1.7 % for this same period.

The U.S. outpaces the world in the cost of branded medications in many cases by a factor of two, while a McKinsey report states prescription drugs in the U.S. cost 50% more than equivalent products in OECD countries. 43% of people in fair or poor health did not fill a prescription, or said they cut pills in half or skipped doses because of cost. Risks of patient non-compliance due to the cost of medicines present a grave threat to public health and, in turn, to the economy. 

This proxy season, ICCR members have filed resolutions with 5 major U.S. pharmaceutical companies asking them for information about how well their executive pay incentives mitigate long-term financial risks associated with mounting public concerns over the affordability of prescription medicines. In addition, ICCR members sent shareholder resolutions to Pfizer and Vertex Pharmaceuticals on the risks they are facing from rising public pressure to contain U.S. prescription drug prices.  

The 5 companies receiving shareholder resolutions are: 

Abbvie, Amgen, Biogen, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Eli Lilly.

Costly prescription drugs


Read the press release here. Members of the media who are interested in learning more about this initiative can contact Susana McDermott, ICCR's Director of Communications by phone at 212-870-2938 and by email at smcdermott@iccr.org.



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Cathy Rowan, Trinity Health*