Here’s a useful perspective from Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution: several recent studies have concluded that, over the last several years, generic drug prices as a whole have continued to decrease. That’s how it’s supposed to be: all those prescription drugs whose prices seem ridiculous are (eventually) doomed. They’ll go generic, and the price will come down, and in most cases it’ll continue to go down even more.
I don’t think that the general public appreciates this, in general or in these particular data sets. A lot of people (including some with loud, passionate opinions on drug prices) don’t actually know the difference between a patent-protected drug and a generic one, or are at best rather hazy on it. It’s outside the normal range of experience, as a consumer. People are used to prices coming down on (say) electronics, but that’s rarely (if ever) because of patent expirations. And as discussed here the other day, the other goods that people typically pay for that are protected by intellectual property law are under copyright, which never seems to let up. So compared to what people are used to, pharmaceuticals are in a rather weird category.
I run into people who aren’t aware that drug patents ever expire at all; they think that inventing a new drug is just a perpetual fountain of money. But it isn’t. Patents go away, even on big multibillion-selling pills, even though their sellers surely very much wish that there were some way that it wouldn’t happen. And they go generic, and become cheap. The Valeants and Shkrelis of the world are trying to change this, which is a terrible idea.